RANGERS have signed some exceptional footballers with big reputations for considerable sums of money who have proved unable to deal with the demands on them at Ibrox over the years.

Basile Boli, Tore Andre Flo and Joey Barton, to name just three, all struggled to live up to expectations and justify the large sums of money they received in wages.

Will John Souttar, the Hearts and Scotland centre half who the Glasgow giants have been linked with, be able to cope is he completes a move during the January transfer window?

The defender, who is out of contract at Tynecastle in the summer, has certainly excelled for both club and country this season and has attracted interest from a raft of clubs as a result.

However, joining the Scottish champions, who are expected to win every trophy domestically and excel in continental competition by their legions of loyal followers, will be a definite step up.

James Tavernier and his team mates are currently bidding to retain the cinch Premiership and secure a Champions League spot and take on Borussia Dortmund in the knockout rounds of the Europa League next month. 

But Alex McLeish knows all about the requirements at Rangers having spent five years as manager at his boyhood heroes and he is confident that Souttar has both the mentality and the ability needed to do well in Govan if he is signed. 

He believes the strength of character the player has displayed coming back from a succession of serious injuries shows that he will not be fazed by the challenges that will await him if he is added to Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s squad this month.

“To get back to the level he has after the injuries he has had says a lot about John,” said McLeish. “If you go back a few years to my era, you probably wouldn’t have recovered from them. You wouldn’t have got your full mobility back when I played.

“That has a lot to do with the improvements that have been made in sports science and medical treatment over the years. He has obviously had good people around him.

“But that has got to be a testament to his strength of character as well. John has certainly turned it all around when his career looked to be in jeopardy. He was out for a helluva long time. If he didn’t have the necessary mental toughness then he wouldn’t have come through what he has been through.”

McLeish handed Souttar his first Scotland cap in a friendly against Belgium at Hampden back in 2018 when the centre back was just 21 and then started him in Nations League matches against Albania and Israel later that year.

Hip and ankle problems meant the Aberdeen-born player then spent three years out of the national fold – but he made a triumphant return in the Qatar 2022 qualifier against Euro 2020 semi-finalist Denmark back in November.

He opened the scoring in the first-half of a game that Steve Clarke’s side won 2-0 to secure a seeding for the World Cup play-offs in March.

McLeish was unsurprised to see Souttar, who had only been drafted in to the Scotland squad by Steve Clarke when Grant Hanley was forced to withdraw, make such an impact and expects him to be a regular fixture going forward.

“I only worked with him for a brief period of time when I was Scotland manager,” he said. “But he had a nice personality, had a quiet assurance to his play on the park and had good leadership qualities as well. That is why he has become the Hearts vice-captain. He had real quality about him.

“He certainly looks a really confident player at the moment. He strikes a beautiful pass, hits a pass as if he means it. But being an outstanding defender is what his real target should be and he is doing that as well just now. He isn’t a big time Charlie, he goes about his business professionally.”

McLeish knew when he drafted Souttar into his Scotland squad after he was appointed manager for a second time four years ago that it would take him time to adapt to the international game and anticipated he would struggle initially.

Sure enough, the former Dundee United player was sent off for two bookable offences against Israel in Haifa and the national team ended up losing an important game 2-1 after being reduced to 10 men.   

But the 77-times capped centre half always expected the youngster to learn from the experience and come back stronger and he has not been disappointed.

“There were a lot of calls, from pundits, managers and players, for younger players to be brought into the Scotland squad when I took over,” he said. “But I was keen to bring some of them through the national system into the top team as well.

“I knew I had to fast-track guys who had played for the under-18 and under-21 sides. As a manager, you obviously don’t want to lose your games, but I just felt the time was right. I changed it in my opening game against Costa Rica.

“John was one who stuck out. He came in as a kid. He didn’t have all the answers. You are on a steep learning curve when you step up to international football. But the potential was always there and he has now come back and realised that potential.

“If you go to a higher level it either makes you or breaks you. If you play regularly you know you’ve cracked a nut, a big coconut. For me, then you can only get better. I am sure that John can go from strength to strength at a higher level with club and country now.”

English Championship outfits Blackburn Rovers and Sheffield United are both vying with Rangers for Souttar’s signature and McLeish suspects that Hearts could be tempted to cash in on their prized asset now rather than lose him for nothing in the summer. 

“The smart money is on him leaving,” he said. “He has been a good servant for Hearts, but he is out of contract at the end of the season and I think they might look to make some collateral on him. He is a good age for a centre half, just 25. It will be interesting to see where he goes. I expect he will do well wherever it is.”