Steven Gerrard has revealed Rangers have opened talks with Jermain Defoe as they plot out the next stage of the veteran striker’s career.
The 38-year-old former England forward proved he can still play a part for Gerrard’s newly crowned champions as he rounded off Sunday’s 4-1 Old Firm mauling of Celtic.
His first derby strike was the ex-West Ham, Tottenham and Portsmouth man’s sixth goal in 18 outings this term.
But with Defoe’s Ibrox deal expiring next month, he has been linked with a potential return south of the border to Sunderland, should Lee Johnson’s team seal promotion to the Sky Bet Championship through the League One play-offs.
However, Defoe has also opened up on his desire to move into coaching as he winds down his playing career.
Now Gerrard has confirmed discussions have taken place to map out the frontman’s future.
“It goes without saying that Jermain Defoe is someone I have the ultimate respect and admiration for,” the Rangers boss said.
“He’s been a wonderful player. He’s had a wonderful career. To get him up here in the first place was something I was keen to do, because I knew he would help the group in the way he goes about his business. He’s a top professional.
“We’re in talks with Jermain at the moment about what’s next for Jermain. But we want to be really respectful, we want to give him the time to make his own decisions.
“I think he’s at a stage in his life where we’ll listen to Jermain and see what he wants to do moving forward.
“We’ll go from there. I don’t think it’s right for me to divulge right now what’s been said from my point of view and from his. But we’ll certainly respect Jermain in terms of his own decisions moving forward.”
Gerrard made his comments as he chatted with fans at a mental health initiative organised by shirt sponsors 32Red.
And he expressed his hunger for more success after sampling the scenes of wild joy that followed the Light Blues’ title triumph last month.
“At the beginning of the season, just getting back into the training ground and among training was a real high,” he said.
“I got a real good feeling about the season. We had a lot of talks during lockdown, a lot of one-to-ones and group meetings with the team.
“I got a real special feeling from the players. But obviously the night of the St Mirren game when we got it over the line from the 55 point of view (Rangers’ 55th league title), I think that’s been my best feeling at Rangers by a long way.
“It’s given me the hunger to go and try and build on that now and achieve more.
“That was a big part of the remit when I came here – what they wanted. So to do it in this historic year was a real special feeling for everyone connected with the club and I think that has to be the highlight.”
Meanwhile, Rangers have announced a new five-year deal with 32Red that will see the betting firm continue to sponsor the club’s kits.
:: 32Red will continue to deliver Team Talk – a men’s mental health initiative that gives Rangers fans a support network to share their own mental health experiences.