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Celtic fan Caixinha gets green light to take Rangers hotseat

By Gavin McCafferty

Rangers have moved a major step closer to appointing a new manager after main target Pedro Caixinha was granted permission by his club to move to Glasgow.

Qatar Stars League side Al Gharafa announced on their official Twitter account that they had agreed a deal to release the Portuguese coach from his contract.

Caixinha could now arrive in Scotland to finalise terms with Rangers ahead of Sunday's trip to Celtic Park, but Graeme Murty is expected to continue in a caretaker role for the derby clash.

Al Gharafa stated that the deal was in their financial interests, especially with Caixinha's contract due to expire in 45 days. And they added that Caixinha's desire to join Rangers outweighed their appetite to retain his services.

The 46-year-old - a trained bullfighter - emerged as Rangers' number one choice to replace Mark Warburton last week, but a deal could not be struck quickly enough for him to be appointed in time to prepare for Sunday's game against the runaway Ladbrokes Premiership leaders.

Rangers' recruitment search was also derailed by their failure to land Ross Wilson as director of football, with the Scot deciding to stay as Southampton's head of scouting and recruitment.

The Govan club had intended to fill that new role first, but their hunt for a manager became more pressing, although Murty followed two consecutive losses with victories over St Johnstone and Hamilton.

Caixinha moved to Qatar in 2015 after a successful spell with Santos Laguna, a Mexican club with close links to Celtic - whose 2015 title success he celebrated in a short video posted on Twitter and circulated by numerous Mexican media outlets.

The footage - which, unsurprisingly, has resurfaced in recent days - shows Caixinha greeting his "Celtic brothers" and saying: "I would like to congratulate you for the fourth win in a row in the Scottish Premier League.

"They just keep coming like that. We keep saluting you and pushing you up."

Former Santos midfielder Marc Crosas, who enjoyed a three-year spell with the Hoops earlier in his career, said that, while his ex-boss was going to "the wrong side of the city", he wished Caixinha well and added: "He is my friend and it would be fantastic to see him at a big club like Rangers.

"I would be happy for him, even though I would want Celtic to win every time he played against them!

"Pedro knows that. He understands I am a Celtic supporter as we often spoke about Scottish football when we were in Mexico. He was always interested to find out what it was like and I know he did his coaching badges with the SFA.

"I have told him that Rangers would be a great job for him and that he would be perfect for them."

Caixinha previously managed Uniao de Leiria and Nacional in his homeland after spells on the coaching staff at Sporting Lisbon, Panathinaikos, Rapid Bucharest and Saudi Arabia.

With their new boss likely to be in the stand, the Rangers players will now have an added incentive to perform well at Celtic Park - where they lost 5-1 in September - and skipper Lee Wallace admits they have plenty to prove as they bid to avoid a fourth defeat against their city rivals this season.

Wallace (below) said: "There were a lot of questions going into the last two games.

"We are now looking forward to what will be another tough challenge.

"But it's why we are in the game. It's a global fixture - a great fixture to go out there and try to show what we are about and answer a few questions, and to go there and try and win a game.

"We still have a lot to prove in general, not just in this game on Sunday. We still have a long way to go and we can't be too happy off the back of two wins at home and scoring six goals and, while the dressing room is happy and we are in a better mood, we still have to realise we have a long way to go.

"We have a lot of questions to answer and come Sunday there will be a range of different questions, because of the magnitude of the task at hand.

"But it's a challenge we are all looking forward to."

Rangers will be without Rob Kiernan after the defender failed to overturn his red card for a tackle on St Johnstone forward Graham Cummins. Danny Wilson is likely to come in as Kiernan now begins a two-game suspension.

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