JERMAIN DEFOE watched Rangers draw 2-2 with Benfica in their thrilling Europa League encounter at Ibrox last night after being left out of Steven Gerrard’s squad for continental competition.
The Govan gaffer overlooked the 38-year-old striker to accommodate summer signings Kemar Roofe and Cedric Itten alongside Alfredo Morelos.
However, the former England international striker is not complaining and reckons by missing out he is more likely to be handed a key role for the Betfred League Cup-tie at Falkirk on Sunday.
Defoe, a man of many clubs who can count West Ham, Spurs, Sunderland and Bournemouth among the number, told STV: “It’s tough on one hand, but I suppose on the other it gives me an opportunity to have that day off my legs and prepare for the game sat the weekend, which are important.
“Of course, over the years, I always loved my time in the Champions League and Europa League with Tottenham. I scored a lot of goals and I’ll remember all these moments.
“When you get to the back end of your career you want to have those moments again, so it’s not easy watching it this season.
“To be honest, I feel really sharp, but I only feel like I’m playing at 70 per cent because you need that run of games to get that match fitness. Obviously, not being in the Europa League squad means that on a Wednesday I can try harder. I’ll stay behind and do some running and a big session in the gym because I know I’ve got the day off the next day.
“That allows me to peak going into the weekend, which has really helped me.”
Defoe’s deal at Ibrox expires this summer, but he hasn’t ruled out playing beyond this season.
The prolific hitman added: “I’ve always listened to my body. That’s important.
“I’ve got a good relationship with the manager and I spoke to him about the Europa League squad and having that day off my legs so he can get the best Jermain Defoe at the weekend.
“If I can continue still scoring goals at this level then, for me, there’s no reason to stop.
“It’s about being honest and if I get to the stage where I’m struggling then, of course, there’s no point because I’ve had a long career.
“At the minute, though, I don’t feel 38.”