Beale says Arfield's Rangers exit 'pulls at heartstrings'
Michael Beale admitted Scott Arfield’s departure “pulls at the heartstrings” as he paid tribute to a quintet of Rangers players leaving Ibrox this summer.
Colombia striker Alfredo Morelos, winger Ryan Kent, veteran goalkeeper Allan McGregor and long-term injured defender Filip Helander will also depart at the ends of their contracts.
The Govan club also announced that veteran midfielder Steven Davis – another player soon to be out of contract – “remains in discussions to continue working with the club’s medical team to support his return to full fitness following a long-term ACL injury suffered in December 2022”.
Midfielder Arfield, 34, has become a fans’ favourite since signing from Burnley in 2018, although he has found regular starts hard to come by recently.
Ahead of the final home cinch Premiership game of the season against Hearts on Wednesday night, where the players leaving will be given the chance to say their goodbyes, Beale spoke about Arfield in the most glowing terms.
“Scotty Arfield – it pulls on the heartstrings, big time,” he said. “As a man and as a person, he has been absolutely fantastic around the place.
“He is adored by the fans as well, not only (by) his team-mates and staff.
“That was a real amicable conversation between the two of us over the last couple of months around playing time, how the squad will look and what Scott needs moving forward as well.
“You have to live the reality. He is a key player and gives a lot of energy to the building and his team-mates, but he needs to feel he will be involved and play from the start or have a significant involvement, and I can’t promise him that.
“A difficult decision to come to, but I think it is right for all parties.”
Beale, who took over from Giovanni van Bronckhorst in November, promised a revamp of the Rangers squad for next season, having once again missed out on the Premiership title to Celtic, and admitted that, “as a group, we are losing a lot of experience and a lot of quality”.
McGregor, 41, is in his second spell at the club while 30-year-old Sweden defender Helander has not played since April 2022 due to a foot problem.
Morelos, 26, was signed from HJK Helsinki in 2017 for a reported fee of £1million while Kent, 26, joined from Liverpool permanently in September 2019 after an initial loan spell, with the fee reportedly around £6.5m.
Beale, former assistant coach at Ibrox under Steven Gerrard, said: “McGregor, Hall of Fame member, has been a fantastic servant for the club in two periods and has had many fantastic moments for this club where he has shown his class.
“We have not had Helander available for a long time through injury but his partnership with Connor Goldson was probably the foundation for the league-winning season in 2021 when we were invincible.
“Ryan Kent’s contribution has been fantastic, certainly in big matches, Europe and domestically.
“This season has not gone the way Ryan would like to go but an excellent player for Rangers.
“And Alfredo, for the outlay to what we got back, he has made an outstanding contribution to the club. Top goalscorer in Europe for Rangers and was player of the year last year.
“Their contributions to Rangers were huge.
“It is a sad day in many ways and I am sure the fans will show their appreciation (on Wednesday) night in the last home game.
“They have all made big contributions to the club but it is a sign that there will be change to the club this summer. You will start to see some announcements.”
After Sunday’s 3-1 win over Hibernian at Easter Road, Beale has Morelos, Borna Barisic, Glen Kamara, Scott Wright, Rabbi Matondo and Antonio Colak all back in training and will rotate his squad for the visit of Hearts.
He said: “We are unbeaten at home in the league this season. There is one game to go and we want to make sure we keep it like that.”