Bougherra to Barça link denied

Walter Smith hopes player continues to perform despite speculation over move
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The Independent Football

Rangers manager Walter Smith has refused to read too much into reports linking Madjid Bougherra with a move to Barcelona after claiming he is now used to the constant speculation surrounding the defender.

Bougherra has apparently been targeted by the Catalan giants – as well as Seville – after impressing scouts while on international duty with Algeria at the Africa Cup of Nations.

Smith says he has no idea whether the centre-half is on the La Liga clubs' radar or not. He insists his only concern is that the player continues to deliver for Rangers after making his comeback for the Scottish champions to great effect against St Mirren at the weekend.

"There seems to have been speculation surrounding him since he came here more or less," said the Rangers manager. "We had it last summer and in other transfer windows and he remains here. Hopefully that will be the case next year as well.

"From any player's point of view it would be nice to be linked with Barcelona and top Spanish teams. However accurate or inaccurate that is, I don't know. But the only thing that concerns us is that he stays here and plays his football and he has been doing that very well for us.

"He has missed a number of games this season through injury and then being away at the Africa Cup. It's good to have him back and, hopefully, he can stay injury-free and play for us in the manner in which he has done. He has been excellent since he came to us."

Smith last week warned that the club's off-field problems "will only get worse" – but stressed that does not automatically mean they will lose players such as Bougherra this summer.

"Someone has got to come in for the players," he pointed out. "People keep saying that someone is going here, there and everywhere. But you have to wait for someone to come in for them before you can have any thoughts about them going anywhere else.

"No one can go anywhere between now and the summer and our sole focus has to be on what we have at the moment. My main focus is just to make sure we try to keep everyone on the right track and we have had no problem with that with Madjid in the past."

Another player who has been on fine form for Rangers this season is Steven Davis and Smith paid tribute to the midfielder after he was named Premier League player of the month for January. "It's a thoroughly deserved award," he said.

"I've said on a couple of occasions that in games over the past month he has been exceptional for us – not only in terms of overall play but also the number of goals he is getting for us.

"We lost Kris Boyd and Kenny Miller, which is always awkward for any team to lose their front two players, but Steven has helped us with that as well. For his performances and goals, I think it's a deserved award."

Rangers head to Motherwell today with a 10-point lead at the top of the SPL and hoping to strengthen their position as leaders. But Smith admits the state of the Fir Park pitch may alter the way he approaches the game.

"I've only seen it on television and it doesn't look very good," he said. "They have had a problem with their pitch for the last two or three years so it will not be the first time we have had to go and play there. It's the same for both sides.

"I don't imagine it will be great for the Motherwell side to play on the pitch either, although they have obviously gained a bit of experience from having to do so which is maybe a slight advantage for them. From our own point of view, if we have to change our way of playing, we will just have to find a way of doing that."