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C.L.Q. First leg Tuesday July 31

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Gers hoping this week for Carlos

by Darrell King

RANGERS were today closing in on the 2.7million capture of Spanish defender Carlos Cuellar.

The 25-year-old Osasuna stopper has been a major target of Walter Smith's since the clubs met in the Uefa Cup back in March.

As revealed in SportTimes on May 16, Smith made moves to land the no-nonsense Cuellar, but two offers - the last one around the 2m mark - were rejected by the La Liga side.

But, in the past 48 hours, Gers have gone back in and sources at the club remain hopeful that a deal will be struck this week.

advertisementCuellar, pictured, who has returned from holiday after the climax to the Spanish League on June 17, has held more talks with Osasuna manager Jose Ziganda and again expressed his desire to leave.

Ziganda has lost eight key players from his squad already, but knows Cuellar has his heart set on leaving.

The Spaniards are also aware he is into the final year of his contract and could go for free when that deal is up.

The 6ft 3in defender's agent, Pedro Bravo, said today: "The deal is back on. I am hopeful that it can be arranged.

"Rangers and Osasuna are talking again and I have spoken with both clubs today. Carlos is awaiting word from Osasuna and we'll take it from there."

Smith views Cuellar as a key part of his rebuilding, along with the likes of Scotland defender Andy Webster, who has been tied up on loan from Wigan.

Smith is aware he'll only get one more season out of veterans Davie Weir and Ugo Ehiogu and wants Cuellar - and other targets - on board before taking his squad to Germany on July 12 for a three-game tour.

Rangers reported no fresh movement on the Stevie Naismith stalemate, despite claims today he had gone to see Kilmarnock boss Jim Jefferies yesterday and demanded his situation be sorted out within the next 48 hours.

Naismith reported for pre-season training with the Rugby Park side this morning.

But Killie leave for their training camp in Italy on Thursday - and Naismith is desperate to get his move to Rangers sorted out before then.

The problem remains over Rangers' payment structure. Killie are believed to be happy with the 1.5m fee, but not enough is being put up front and an impasse has again been reached.

Now, the player appears to be losing patience with the saga, although, as of today, his future was no closer to being sorted out.

Smith, meanwhile, has opted for Tuesday, July 31 as the date for the first leg of the Gers' second round Champions League qualifier with either Zeta or FBK Kaunas.

Smith opted for that night to give the team an extra 24 hours to prepare for their SPL opener at Inverness on August 4.

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