Rangers striker Jermain Defoe says it is the perfect time to move onto the next stage of his career after accepting a new player-coach role at Ibrox just a month on from collecting his first winner’s medal.
The veteran former England striker faced speculation he was set to hang up his boots this summer as his previous deal expired.
But Defoe – who got his hands on his maiden trophy at the age of 38 as he celebrated Rangers’ title triumph – has decided he still has the hunger for at least one more year.
And he will now look to pass on his wealth of experience to the Light Blues squad after taking up an invite to start his coaching career alongside his former international teammate Steven Gerrard.
“It is well-documented how much I love the club and the relationship I have with the fans, the players and the staff at the club,” said Defoe.
“So to get the deal over the line, I am just delighted. It is something I wanted to happen, even before the season finished, especially the way we finished the season with winning the league.
“It was the perfect time to be at the football club and it was so special, so to sign another contract as a player-coach, and to still be a part of it, it is an amazing feeling for me and my family.
“It is something different and it is something new for me, and first of all, I want to thank the board, Ross Wilson and the manager and all the staff that have made this happen.
“It is an unbelievable opportunity for me and it just shows the appreciation I get from everyone at the football club which is the best feeling in the world more than anything else, and I can imagine once I get started, hopefully I will just flow into it and everything will happen quite naturally.”
Gerrard first persuaded Defoe to move north on loan from Bournemouth in January 2019.
He made the switch permanent last summer and is now looking forward to having the striker join him on the coaching staff.
Gerrard said: “I am absolutely delighted to be retaining the services of Jermain both as a player, and now also as a coach.
“It is well-documented the relationship I have with him having known him for so many years, and I am thrilled that he is going to be passing on his amazing experience and professionalism to the attacking players throughout the club.
“He has shown this season, however, what an asset he can still be for us on the pitch, and I won’t be afraid to use him when necessary. I look forward to Jermain’s return and him beginning his new role when pre-season begins at the end of the month.
Meanwhile, Rangers have paid tribute to Greg Stewart and Bongani Zungu after confirming the pair’s exits.
Former Dundee, Aberdeen and Kilmarnock forward Stewart joined Gerrard’s side in 2019 but struggled for regular action.
He netted three goals in 33 appearances over his two-year stint with the Light Blues – but the majority of his run-outs came from the bench as he registered just seven starts.
Midfielder Zungu arrived in October on loan from French side Amiens after a summer-long pursuit.
A clause in the deal meant Rangers could have made the move permanent for a £2.7m fee but the South Africa international never came close to convincing Gerrard that would be money well spent.
His fate was sealed back when he was handed a six-game ban from the Scottish Football Association after attending an illegal lockdown party along with four teammates in February.
Sporting director Ross Wilson said: “We made a number of changes to the squad last summer and the group has a real strength and connection in it between all of the players. Greg and Bongani were two really positive influences and popular members around the group.
“As a Rangers fan I know how much it meant to Greg to help the club clinch the league championship and I am delighted he moves on to his next challenge as a league champion.”
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