Rangers 'nearly signed' XI; featuring Lionel Messi

Barcelona's Lionel Messi reacts

We pick an XI with players that have been linked with a move to Rangers in the past.

After his big-money move to English football was blighted by injury, Rangers offered Craig Gordon a chance to train with the club and work with goalkeeping coach Jim Stewart. Despite spending much of the 2013/14 season with the Gers, Gordon would sign for fierce rivals Celtic in July of 2014. As reported by Sky Sports, the Scottish international claimed that no deal was forthcoming from Rangers before manager Ally McCoist fired back that the club did offer Gordon a contract.

Gordon isn’t the only player that flirted with Rangers before deciding on a move to Celtic. In 2008, Glenn Loovens was targeted by Gers boss Walter Smith as the ideal replacement for Carlos Cuellar, who had just joined Aston Villa. The Guardian reported that Loovens was “set” on a move to Glasgow until Celtic swooped in to secure the a deal for the Cardiff City defender.

One man who did have his heart set on a move to Rangers was Roland Juhasz. The Hungarian international was “left furious” after Anderlecht rebuffed a £3million offer for his services, according to the Daily Mail. The failed deal rounded up a disappointing week for the Teddy Bears which also saw them miss out on Dutch midfielder Wesley Verhoek to Nottingham Forest.

Aston Villa's Joleon Lescott in action with Watford's Odion Ighalo

Last summer, Joleon Lescott looked set to end his woeful spell with Aston Villa by joining Mark Warburton’s newly promoted Rangers side, only for the transfer to fall through in the final stages. As reported in the Birmingham Mail, Villa Chairman Dr Tony Xia claimed that Lescott had failed to agree personal terms but that was soon dispelled as “absolute nonsense” by Warburton. The Rangers boss put the record straight by stating personal terms were agreed with the deal breaking down because of Lescott’s family circumstances.

The third player to make this XI who ended up joining Celtic is Kris Commons. As reported by the Guardian, Rangers were “close” to agreeing a deal to bring in the Derby County winger until a disagreement over wages halted proceedings. Celtic were apparently willing to match his £20,000 a week wage demands and signed the player two days later.

An emotional return to Ibrox was on the cards when Gennaro Gattuso had discussions with Ally McCoist over a potential move back to Ibrox in 2012. Following his departure from AC Milan, Gattuso was supposedly “desperate” to end his career with the club he enjoyed a memorable spell with during the 1997/8 season, according to the Daily Record. However, the transfer embargo imposed on Rangers hampered any return deal and the Italian would see out his playing career with Swiss side FC Sion.

Rangers supporters were almost treated to two of the game’s future stars when Alex McLeish came close to securing loan deals for Barcelona wonderkids Andres Iniesta and Lionel Messi. According to the Scottish Sun, the Gers had discussions with Barca assistant manager Henk Ten Carte about the duo before making a formal approach in the summer of 2004. However, Iniesta's preseason goal against Italian giants Juventus and Messi's incredible performances at the Youth World Cup meant both players would stay with Barcelona's first-team.

Messi and Iniesta aren’t the only world-class players that nearly swapped Barcelona for Rangers. In 1997, the Gers were part of a three club race to secure a £20million deal for recently crowned World Player of the Year, Ronaldo. As reported in the Daily Record, Ronaldo’s agent Giovanni Branchini stated that Rangers came in with an “incredible” offer for the Brazilian - which also stipulated that he only had to play in Champions League matches. Unfortunately, Inter Milan were first to trigger Barcelona’s clause for Ronaldo and secured his signature ahead of Rangers and Lazio.

Two years before McLeish almost pulled off a deal for Messi, he was interested in signing Samuel Eto’o from Spanish side Mallorca. McLeish told the official Rangers website that there was an interest in the Eto’o after watching the Cameroonian forward in an international friendly against Argentina. Despite this, no deal for Eto’o was agreed and the forward would go on to sign for Barcelona in 2004.

This XI is rounded off with another Barcelona connection. Gary Lineker admitted to the Daily Record that he had the chance to join Graeme Souness’ side Rangers in 1986. However, the lure of the Catalan giants proved too strong and Lineker ended up at the Nou Camp.

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