ALFREDO Morelos may be contracted to Rangers until the summer of 2023, but only the most optimistic of supporters expects to see him pull on the dark blue again once this season has ended.

If the Colombian does get his move, the prospect of filling a rather large 29-goal (and counting) hole in the Ibrox attack may be a daunting one for both manager Steven Gerrard and the club’s fans to contemplate, but thanks in part to the striker’s indiscipline they may already have been given a glimpse of the future.

Describing a 36-year-old forward as a possible replacement for Morelos may seem outlandish on the face of it, but according to a legendary Rangers forward – who played on until he was 40 himself – the answer may very well already be on the books for next season.

Since Morelos was sent off against Celtic, subsequently receiving a four-match ban, on-loan hitman Jermain Defoe has stepped into the breach and more than adequately filled his teammate’s boots.

Scoring the opener in the win over Hearts, teeing up the third goal for Scott Arfield in the weekend win over Motherwell and leading the line consummately in-between, Defoe has started to show the pedigree that earned him 57 caps for England and his him tied for seventh-place with Sergio Aguero on the all-time English Premier League scoring charts, with both men on 162 goals.

How long he can go on playing at the top level remains to be seen, but McCoist believes he has the class and the ability to be the main man for Rangers next season at the very least.

“I don’t think there is any doubt about that,” McCoist said. “Steven (Gerrard) would still need to strengthen, [but] there is no doubt he could go in and do that because he is a good player.

“If Morelos was to go I would certainly think that you would need someone else in, but you could easily have the option of having Defoe there with Arfield playing off of him.

“He has an awful lot to offer. He is a great player and an England international. There is a lot more to his game than just finishing, although he clearly can finish.

“I met him, funnily enough, on a flight up from London about a fortnight ago. He is a really nice guy. I asked him if he was enjoying it and he clearly is. I don’t think the size of the club has surprised him because he is an intelligent boy, but I was delighted to speak to him and then see him get back in on Sunday.

“He can finish, no doubt about it. Put the ball in front of him and he will finish but his display on Sunday was another wee string to the team’s bow with the way they played.

“It was interesting to see how he would handle not playing because everyone thought Steven would go with a two or that Morelos would have been off. He has come in, took his time, been on the bench, off the bench and has started one or two games but he has handled it brilliantly. He has not been a Billy Big-time, in fact he has been anything but.

“What we saw at the weekend did not surprise me. It just surprised me that he squared that one for the third one, right enough. He can certainly play.”

McCoist believes that Morelos’s on-field indiscretions may not only depreciate his value in the transfer market this summer, but also mean he may find it hard to walk back into the team once his ban is up two matches from now.

In fact, that may even be just the thing to finally make the penny drop with the 22-year-old over his on-field behaviour.

“That would definitely be the biggest shock to his system,” McCoist said.

“I’m loathe to use the term he is still young when we are talking about someone who is 22. Ian Durrant was playing in the Rangers first-team at 16 – that’s young. But there is clearly a level of immaturity about him on the park.

“Wee Broony [Scott Brown] winds him up, and if he’s daft enough to take the bait, then it’s his own fault. He’s letting himself down and his team down. He’s been sent off five times, so there has to be a point where he starts learning.

“His goals have been brilliant, but he - through his own stupidity - has given another couple of lads an opportunity, and he’s give the manager a nice problem that he probably never had before.

“He’s got to be an intelligent enough boy to look at that game at the weekend and say the boys did well, I might not walk straight back in.

“From what I saw at the weekend it is a far bigger decision that it was. It is a big decision to make.”