RANGERS winger Daniel Candeias has urged officials to give Alfredo Morelos more protection after insisting the explosive attacker is subject to incessant provocation in the Scottish game.
The 31-year-old heaved a sigh of relief this week when it emerged that the Colombia internationalist would not face any retrospective active for his clash with Kilmarnock defender Kirk Broadfoot on Saturday.
Broadfoot appeared to rake his studs into the heel of Morelos, prompting the striker to push the ex-Gers stopper. However, neither player was subsequently charged and Rangers’ principle attacking threat will be free to face Celtic in their next fixture.
Nevertheless, the incident has only served to further persuade Candeias that Morelos is constantly targeted by opposition defenders and he has urged SPFL referees to stamp down on the perceived incitement.
He even stated that some whistlers have told the former HJK Helsinki man to keep his cool before a ball is even kicked.
“People say Alfredo has too many red cards, but in every game, the players provoke Alfredo,” said the Portuguese. “The referees can help him in the matches.
“People look too much at Alfredo, the referees look too much at Alfredo. When the games start, the referees speak to Alfredo: “Hey, easy today.” But, all the time, the players provoke him.
“When you are 22 years old, you need to have a strong mentality, but it’s a normal reaction to the provocations. He is emotional and there are so many emotions in the game.
“This season, he has too many red cards of course but I think it will help Alfredo for future years.
“He is like Diego Costa. He needs to stay in the game with provocations.”
Morelos was giving his marching orders on the opening day of the Premiership campaign by referee Kevin Clancy for kicking out at Scott McKenna, a decision that would later be overturned by an independent disciplinary panel on appeal.
He has gone on to receive 15 yellow cards and four reds this term, however, Candeias believes that curtain-raiser in the Granite City was a sign of things to come.
“At the start of the season in Aberdeen, Alfredo did nothing. All the time McKenna provoked Alfredo,” continued Candeias. “All the players against Rangers . . . I don’t know, they have so much anger for Rangers and Alfredo.”
Asked whether he believes that perceived goading of Morelos is a tactic he thinks Celtic will employ when the sides meet in 10 days’ time, he added: “Maybe. Maybe, yes.”
Currently on international duty with Colombia, Morelos was pictured alongside superstar attackers Falcao and James Rodriguez as the South American nation launched their new kit ahead of upcoming friendlies against Japan and South Korea.
It brought a smile from Candeias, his closest friend in the Gers dressing room and fellow Spanish speaker, and he sees no reason why Morelos cannot one day be seen on the same plain as that duo.
“I think he can get to that level,” he continued. “It is important for him to play with guys like James [Rodriguez] and Falcao, who are great players in world football. When you work with people like that, then you will only improve more.
“Alfredo is still only 22 years of age. He can improve a lot. More goals, more consistency in the games. If he keeps working hard each week, I think he can become better in the next years. I think Rangers is a great club and it has helped Alfredo a lot.”
However, Candeais acknowledges that, in order to be mentioned in the same breath as Falcao and Rodriguez, he must ultimately leave Rangers – just not this summer.
“Alfredo doesn’t change much when he hears about stories saying he could move to another club or leave Rangers,” he added. “I think if he stays one more year in Scotland it would be good for him. Of course, if you score goals like this season, maybe you leave Rangers for another club. That’s normal.”
Following the current international hiatus, Rangers’ stuttering domestic campaign will resume with a mouth-watering trip to face Celtic, effectively their last chance to spark any semblance of a title race.
Ten points separate the sides with eight games to play, but the former Benfica man is refusing to give up the ghost despite a recent four-match winless streak.
“I don’t think it is over. We have eight games left and we play against Celtic twice, so mathematically we can win it,” he added.
“It is has been a tough time for us because of course, we want to win, but when teams play against Rangers they give 200 percent. We can only look forward and look to the next game – recover the squad and be ready for the next challenge.”
Daniel Candeias was speaking at Knockhill Racecourse at an event organised by league sponsors, Ladbrokes