Steven Gerrard knows Alfredo Morelos is no angel. But the Colombian certainly isn’t the devil in disguise his critics would make him out to be.
For Gerrard, he is a maverick rather than a mad man, a striker who can inspire Rangers to success. The one his opponents love to hate only grows in the affections of the Ibrox crowd that have taken him to their hearts.
Morelos has never been short of detractors since making the move to Glasgow and he has become the most high-profile player, the most talked- about character, in Scottish football. The trouble is, very few know Morelos the man.
He is the boy from the streets of Cerete who returned home, once again, last month to play in a charity match on behalf of his Foundation and that bought Christmas presents for kids. He is the family man that is expecting his first child.
The red card Morelos received at Parkhead will rule him out of Rangers’ matches against Stranraer, St Mirren and Hearts. It shouldn’t be another stick to needlessly beat him with, though.
“We’ve given him an extra couple of days for a couple of reasons,” Gerrard said at Rangers’ winter training camp in Dubai. “He’s not available in the short term, but, more importantly, he loses a day going home, he loses a day coming back.
“Add to that, over the course of the nine months he gets very little chance to go and see his family, whereas the London lads, if they get a day or two, can shoot down to London. For a young lad, it’s important he gets valuable family time.
“Listen, I know both sides of Alfredo. I’m not going to sit here and paint a picture of an angel, he’s a maverick. I love working with him, he is a fantastic talent as a player, he’s still young, he’s still making mistakes.”
Morelos is no stranger to being the centre of attention and to making the headlines for a variety of reasons as he has become the best striker in Scotland but also courted controversy.
When the 23-year-old has overstepped the mark, Gerrard has been the first one to try and help him and the storm regarding his cut-throat ‘game over’ gesture at Parkhead led to Rangers publicly backing Morelos. The coverage he receives, they claimed, does ‘nothing to suggest Scottish football is the most welcoming of environments.’
Morelos has become accustomed to living under the spotlight and the latest round of jibes aimed in his direction won’t distract him from the job in hand.
Gerrard said: “He’s not the type of person that much affects. If you give him a ball and a grass pitch, you get smiles out of Alfredo.
“I’ve had a good dialogue with him since the last game. He’s fine, he’s happy at home, he’s gone and done what he does annually.
“For people that don’t know him, he’s over-generous. Even the charity stuff that he does at Rangers, he’s always the first to put his hand up and put his hand in his pocket. He does give a lot.
“Certain people do misunderstand the whole Alfredo, but there’s still work to do to get him exactly where we want him.”
The first step for Morelos will be to get back on the park but the Ibrox crowd will have to wait until the visit of Ross County later in the month to see the 28-goal forward in action once again.
His suspension for the Stranraer game is a result of his disciplinary record in the Scottish Cup last term, while he will miss the trip to Tynecastle after also being sent off in the victory over Motherwell last month.
Jermain Defoe, pictured left, scored his 14th goal of the campaign when he filled in for Morelos against Hibernian three weeks ago before the Colombian came off the bench to net the decisive strike that saw off Kilmarnock at Ibrox.
Rangers will return from Dubai at the weekend and head into a crucial run that could give them the platform upon which to build a title challenge this term. And Gerrard is confident his side will cope without their top scorer for the first three fixtures in the Cup and Premiership in the coming days.
“It’s always a slight concern if one of you big players is out of a big fixture across the board,” he said. “When Steven Davis (inset) got a calf injury at Aberdeen, I was concerned knowing the games that were coming up.
“I do feel the squad is better equipped to cope now without any individual but Alfredo’s our top scorer so of course it’s a slight concern but I was concerned before Hibs and we put in a fantastic display. Sometimes it can have a positive effect in a strange way because the players want to prove it’s not all about Alfredo and we’ve got good players and good replacements. Hopefully we’ll cope and manage really well but I’d be a liar if I was sitting here saying it’s not a slight concern.”