McLeish hopes De Boer's return will boost Rangers

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The Independent Football

The Rangers manager, Alex McLeish, is confident Ronald de Boer will soon be ready to return after more than four months on the sidelines.

The Netherlands international has undergone knee surgery which has kept him out of the side since August. Rangers have since been knocked out of European competition and are now 11 points behind Celtic in the Scottish Premier League title race.

But McLeish is convinced De Boer's return will offer his side's supporters a boost after a disappointing 3-0 defeat at Celtic at the weekend. "We are now pushing Ronald a lot harder," he said. "Unfortunately, he won't be ready for the Hibs game but, hopefully, he is not too far away."

The Egypt international Ahmed Hassan claims Besiktas have rejected an offer from Rangers to sign him: "My agent confirmed the offer, but my club refused the transfer," the midfielder said.

Hassan also maintains that Bolton were interested, saying: "Bolton were very serious and it would have been great to appear in the Premier League."

The Rangers defender Zura Khizanishvili will return to the starting line-up for the Tennent's Scottish Cup third-round tie at Hibernian on Saturday. The Georgian international has been missing since suffering a shoulder injury in the Champions' League defeat by Panathinaikos on 9 December.

But McLeish is refusing to take chances with the midfielder Gavin Rae, who limped out of the Old Firm game with a recurrence of a tendon problem he originally suffered in mid-November.

The Scottish international lasted just 30 minutes of his debut and will now miss the trip to Easter Road, although McLeish maintains the risk of playing Rae at Parkhead was worthwhile. "We felt it was a calculated risk to play him at Parkhead, given that we were eight points behind, and everyone was in agreement about that fact," he said.

But McLeish is refusing to set a deadline for the return of Rae, who has been suffering the injury for almost two months. "Gavin has had a problem since the Euro 2004 play-off against Holland in Amsterdam," he said. "He has had a couple of failed attempts at comebacks and has never really been able to let the situation settle."

Rae is desperate to play a full game for his new club. He is in Germany seeking the advice of the renowned specialist Dr Hans Müller Wolfhart. The German's task is to diagnose a cure for a persistent hamstring problem which limited Rae's Rangers debut.

"I was really enjoying Saturday's game and it was bad luck that I had to come off. The fact that it was against Celtic made it twice as frustrating," Rae said. "I was eager to make an impression and I felt I was doing well so I can't wait to play a full game now. I will be guided by the medical staff."

No date has been set for the comeback for the £250,000 signing from Dundee. But Rangers know that Dr Müller Wolfhart is regarded as an expert in his field and earlier in the season he helped the Rangers captain, Craig Moore, to return from a persistent hamstring problem of his own.

Rangers will have to move quickly if they want to sign the Croatia striker Ivica Mornar, his agent has warned. The Scottish champions have been linked with a move for the 29-year-old international. The tall target man will be out of contract at Anderlecht at the end of the season and is keen to sort out his future within the next few weeks.

But the player's agent, Alen Augustincic, has warned that other clubs, including the Belgians themselves, are ahead of Rangers in the race to secure his signature. "I have not had direct contact from Rangers but I have had phone calls from people saying they are interested," he said. "But a lot of offers are coming in for him right now - concrete ones."

Portsmouth are believed to have made a bid, but Augustincic offered Portsmouth little hope of signing the striker. "There are better clubs than Portsmouth who are interested. We have some concrete offers from clubs in Italy, Germany and England - and Anderlecht have made a good offer, too," he said.

Mornar played against Celtic in the Champions' League, featuring throughout the Belgian side's 1-0 win in Brussels and the 3-1 defeat in Glasgow.

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