Steven Gerrard says Rangers’ unwillingness to entertain any bids for prized asset Alfredo Morelos in the January transfer window extends to the entire core of his squad.
The Ibrox manager yesterday appeared to suggest that, while he understands the need to cover outgoings not matched by income at what is currently a loss-making operation, care also had to be taken not to upset the balance required to remain competitive in the championship race.
Overhauling Celtic to prevent their rivals equalling the Scottish record run of nine straight league titles will depend heavily on Morelos continuing the remarkable form that has brought him 24 goals this season. With a double in the 2-2 draw away to Feyenoord on Thursday, he created a new record in becoming the first player with a Scottish club to score 13 goals in European competition in a single season, ensuring the Ibrox men are in the box seat to progress to the Europa League last 32. Gerrard, though, maintains he is not the only indispensable performer at Ibrox.
“My message about Alfredo or anyone else is that nobody is for sale at any price,” he said. “Nobody is going out the door in January. I can’t be clearer than that. None of my best players will leave in January. The only people who will be leaving here will be people who need game time for their own career. I need to support that and back that. I want to be understanding and show them the respect they deserve and try and help them get the right challenge for them to go out and play football.
“I don’t want to be selfish and keep the size of the squad – because it does suit me to keep everyone here. But I am upsetting people from game to game by leaving them out or not giving them the game time that satisfies them. So I want to be respectful.”
Meanwhile, Rangers face an anxious wait to discover if they will be forced to play their decisive final Europa League group game against Young Boys behind closed doors following reports of sectarian chanting by a section of their support in Rotterdam. Uefa has already ordered partial stadium closures at Ibrox for the previous two group games as sanctions for “racist behaviour [sectarian chanting]” at the home Europa League qualifier against St Joseph’s in July and in the play-off round against Legia Warsaw in Poland the following month.
A decision on any further punishment by the governing body is expected on Monday, subsequent to referee and delegate reports being appraised.
Uefa takes an especially dim view of “recidivism” over such offences in setting out tariffs for punishments that led to stadium closure. However, sources intimated yesterday that a full closure of Ibrox was not the automatic penalty and that a ban on away supporters for the club’s next European away game could be a possible outcome arising from any new charge as two of the three incidents of late would have occurred away from Ibrox.
Rangers could also be punished by Uefa over flares set off by their fans in Rotterdam.