Rangers manager Pedro Caixinha has urged Billy Gilmour to stay with the Ibrox club for at least another seven years in order to ensure he fulfils his rich potential.
The midfield prodigy, who will be 16 in June, is the subject of firm interest from Chelsea who have already agreed a deal in principle to sign him this summer. Rangers have negotiated a fee of around £600,000 in order to protect themselves from the possibility of losing Gilmour for a nominal training compensation payment if he decided to leave them after his next birthday.
Rangers’ preference, however, remains for Gilmour to sign a long-term professional contract with them and new boss Caixinha has lent his weight to the bid to persuade the Ayrshire-born youngster to stay.
The Portuguese coach has already determined that Gilmour is a special talent, observing that he is currently standing out at under-20 level for Rangers when he turns out alongside and against players up to five years his senior. Caixinha has spoken to Gilmour’s parents in an effort to convince them their son’s future will be best served at Rangers, ultimately preparing him for a move to the English Premier League further down the line.
“Billy should stay with us and his parents to give him more time to grow and more time to get experience to arrive at the right level of football at, say, 22 or 23,” said Caixinha. “It’s important for him to stay and it’s important for us that he stays.
“Billy is a fantastic guy. We are assessing him and I have already met with the parents. It’s a family decision, we know that. We are waiting and I hope Billy can stay with us. He is a 15-year-old boy with a bright future in front of him.
“If he is playing with guys four or five years older than him and he makes a difference, which he is doing, that’s really good. He anticipates the time and space he needs to perform the actions. I think it’s important for him to stay with us now.”
Gilmour’s situation was just one item on a busy agenda for Caixinha during the international break which allowed him to settle in fully at Rangers, establish his working patterns and assess the short and medium term tasks facing him in the job.
He met club chairman Dave King for the first time last week and says he emerged from their talks enthused by what he insists is a shared vision for Rangers’ future.
“It was fantastic and it was a pleasure to get to know Dave,” added Caixinha. “It was very interesting and things were really clear, so we are getting in the same direction and on the same wavelength as to what needs to be done from here until the beginning of the season.”
Caixinha will seek to tie up as much of his summer player recruitment as quickly as possible, given the short turnaround between the end of the current campaign and next season in which their first match is all but certain to be a Europa League first qualifying round, first leg fixture on 29 June. If Rangers succeed in reaching the Scottish Cup final on 27 May, it could mean a break of little over a week for Caixinha’s players before they return to pre-season training.
“We have to organise the squad for that,” he said. “We have the notion that we are going to finish the season on 27 May. But to give them a rest period, to prepare them for when they restart for that first match next season, normally you need between five to six weeks. That’s more than enough to get the pattern and make them ready to play that first match. So from 29 June you work back five or six weeks and you have the date that you are going to start.
“But that doesn’t fit, I don’t have the time. So we will have only 21 days of preparation, so I can give them only between 10 to 11 days of a vacation. This is the reality we are facing. That means that we are trying to organise everything from now until the end of the season in order to start on the right date with everyone on board in the right direction.”
Caixinha was gratified by the response he received from his players when he outlined the prospect of a curtailed summer holiday to them this week.
“When I asked them ‘How many of you have played in the Europa League or Champions League? Raise your hand’. How many raised their hands? Only a few. So they all want to do that. Top players have to do this and Rangers players must always be top players. There is a statement you will hear a lot from me – ‘We are Rangers’.
“I said it already since I arrived here and I will say it again – my players are always the best ones, my squad is the best one, my club is the best one. We are Rangers. We need to think like that, we need to act like that, we need to have that mentality.
“The players need to be intelligent. You need to teach them more than coach them, you need to educate them and let them see the game like this. You need to establish priorities if you want them to see a clear picture.
“It is a very interesting question because it reminds me of the places I have worked before I arrived here. In Qatar, for example, the players are very skilful but I believe it is difficult to transmit passion to them. Mexican players are very skilful as well but they don’t have the same level of professionalism. In all places, you have very good points and other points you are weaker at, so you need to balance these things. But, if you ask me ‘do you prefer your players to be passionate?’, I will totally agree. The only point that is not negotiable is the attitude. Guys that are committed to run are guys that are committed to learn. It is easy to lead them in this direction.”
Caixinha, meanwhile, is continuing to assess candidates for a role on his coaching staff. A number of former Rangers players, including Barry Ferguson, John Brown, Alex Rae, Peter Lovenkrands and Jonatan Johansson, have been interviewed by the manager.
“I hope by the end of next week, I have my decision,” he said. “But I must focus more on our three games in that period.”