Rangers hold off Aston Villa interest to secure teen defender on new deal

Rangers hope Leon King will add to his first-team experience over the course of his new contract after agreeing a three-year deal with the 17-year-old.

Aston Villa had recently been credited with an interest in the defender, who was also linked to Manchester United earlier in his young career and has caught the eye as part of Rangers B-team.

However, the plan will be to accelerate King’s ascension to the first-team set-up permanently. He made his debut against Falkirk last season and has been part of Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s recent matchday squads, now sporting director Ross Wilson sees him remaining there as a fixture in years to come.

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“Leon is a great kid and one that I’m delighted will continue on his journey at Rangers,” he said.

“Over the last couple of seasons Leon has already played in the Rangers first-team and had significant training exposure with our first-team group. He’s handled everything that we’ve challenged him with so far, and the support that he’s received across the club to aid his development has been excellent.

“It’s important that every one of our young players at this stage has a clear plan and for Leon he will now move into the first-team group under Giovanni van Bronckhorst on a permanent basis between now and the end of the season.”

The news is further positivity from the Ibrox youth pathway, which bore financial fruit yesterday with home-grown right-back Nathan Patterson moving to Everton in a lucrative deal which could rise to £16m.

King is another highly-rated prospect and head of Academy, Craig Mulholland, added: “Leon is at an exciting stage in his development journey and we are delighted that it will continue at Rangers.

Rangers' Leon King warms up before the UEFA Europa League match between Standard Liege and Rangers last season. (Photo by Rico Brouwer / SNS Group)

“His plan over a number of years has been very carefully managed and we have achieved several key objectives – maximising contact time via our Boclair Academy programme, appropriate player challenge playing and training several years ahead of his own age group, regular exposure to ‘best v best’ cross-border competition, early exposure at age 16 to playing against men’s first teams via our B-team project and a significant opportunity to train and learn from the first-team squad.

“These carefully designed experiences, combined with his dedication and attitude to maximising his potential, should make the next few years an exciting time for Leon.”

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Rangers Academy chief Craig Mulholland. (Picture: SNS)
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