JON TORAL would likely have signed for Birmingham City and not Rangers this month had Gary Rowett not been sacked by the Championship club just before Christmas. Rowett had been in talks with the Spanish midfielder, who spent last season on loan at The Blues, with a view to bringing him back from Spanish club Granada this month when he was surprisingly let go by City.

With Birmingham out of the picture, Rangers manager Mark Warburton has stepped in to make a counter offer to loan the player from Arsenal for the remainder of the season. The 21 year-old is expected to feature against Real Madrid in the Bernabeu this evening before giving Warburton, who he played under at Brentford in another loan spell, his final answer on the proposed move to Ibrox.

Rowett is looking to make an immediate return to management and has been linked with a number of vacancies down south but joked that Toral did not want to wait until his former boss had landed a new post before deciding on his next club.

Rowett said: “The biggest compliment I can pay to Jon is that we had actually moved to bring him back to Birmingham in this window before I left. That was something we had worked incredibly hard to do. We had kept in regular contact with Jon since the summer and sent one of our staff to watch him out in Granada. So I think we would have competed with Rangers for his signature and would have tried to sign him permanently if we could have as well.

“I actually spoke to Jon a couple of days ago and he told me there was a good chance he might be joining Rangers. And I said to him, “can’t you hang on a couple of weeks until I get another job?” but he was quite adamant that he saw this as a good opportunity. And I think he feels Arsenal think it is a good opportunity, too.”

Rowett also felt that, should they get the deal over the line, Rangers would be getting a player who could make an immediate impact in the second half of the season. He added: “Jon is a great lad, one who fits in to the group right away because of his character. I played him as a number 10 predominantly. I know under Mark he often played wide right, drifting in on his left foot, but we mostly played him centrally. He’s a very talented player, with a good touch and an excellent dribbler in tight areas.

“The biggest thing I would say about him is he’s a real goal threat. Not only does he link well with players but he scored eight for us last season in the Championship. And he should have scored more. He got one against Ipswich that most Blues fans would say is up there with the best every scored at St Andrew’s. I think he will flourish in that environment with Rangers. He’s got English Premier League quality, or certainly potential.”