Belfast Telegraph

Kyle Lafferty set for big move to Qatar or Saudi Arabia

Kyle Lafferty is set to leave Rangers after being deemed surplus to requirements at Ibrox.
Kyle Lafferty is set to leave Rangers after being deemed surplus to requirements at Ibrox.

By Steven Beacom in the Sunday Life

Northern Ireland hero Kyle Lafferty could be set for his most adventurous transfer yet, with clubs in Qatar and Saudi Arabia considering a move for the striker.

Lafferty is on his way out of Rangers having been told to look for a new team after Ibrox boss Steven Gerrard didn't take the 31-year-old to Portugal for a pre-season training camp.

It is understood there is interest in Lafferty from Cypriot rivals AEL Limassol and Apollon Limassol, but sources in Scotland say that, if the right deal for him and his family can be struck, he would go to play in the Middle East in Qatar or Saudi Arabia, where sides are believed to be weighing up making the forward an offer.

Lafferty, who has scored 20 goals for Northern Ireland, is no stranger to travelling. The Fermanagh man has previously played in Switzerland with Sion and Italy with Palermo. He also had a spell on loan with Caykur Rizespor in Turkey.

Ideally, Lafferty would have loved to have stayed with Rangers, but his second spell with his boyhood club has not worked out as he had hoped, with game time limited last season following his move from Hearts. Gerrard now sees the forward, who still has a year left on his contract, as surplus to requirements.

The Windsor Park hero could have options to stay in Scotland, with Motherwell one of those, but it is highly unlikely they could match his salary demands.

Lafferty, who is 32 in September, is determined to play more football in the coming months and impress international boss Michael O'Neill ahead of massive Euro 2020 qualifiers against Germany and the Netherlands.

It was telling and a clear message to Lafferty that O'Neill didn't start him in either of the Group C victories in Estonia or Belarus earlier this month, though he was a late substitute in the latter encounter when Paddy McNair netted in the dying moments.

There were some suggestions that Lafferty could return to Hearts, where he became such a hero, but that is unlikely with fellow Northern Ireland ace Conor Washington set to lead their attack this season.

Lafferty actually helped sell Hearts to Washington.

"I spoke with Kyle before the move. He told me it's a great club to play for, with really passionate fans," stated Washington, who was released by Sheffield United in the summer and opted to join Hearts on a two-year deal despite having better financial offers in England.

The former postman is itching to be a club regular again and is confident that will be the case at Tynecastle, where Northern Ireland assistant boss Austin McPhee is the number two to Craig Levein.

Celtic are hoping to attract another Northern Ireland player to Scotland with Hoops boss Neil Lennon interested in signing £5m rated Paddy McNair after David Turnbull's move from Motherwell to Parkhead collapsed this week.

Middlesbrough midfielder McNair, on the back of outstanding displays against Estonia and Belarus, is a wanted man.

Premier League new boys Sheffield United are also keen, along with several Championship clubs. The other factor is that new Boro boss Jonathan Woodgate may want to keep the Ballyclare native to inspire their promotion drive.

While ex-Manchester United star McNair ponders a potential switch to Glasgow and Lafferty prepares to depart the city, another of O'Neill's heroes, defender Gareth McAuley, is also on the way out at Rangers.

O'Neill still views veteran McAuley as his third choice centre back, behind Leicester's Jonny Evans and Watford's Craig Cathcart, but both the player and manager know the 39-year-old needs to be at a club to maintain his place in the international squad.

 

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