Chelsea and Arsenal closing in on Rangers wonderkid Billy Gilmour

Billy Gilmour in action for Rangers U20s (SNS Group)
Billy Gilmour in action for Rangers U20s (SNS Group)

RANGERS should learn within the next fortnight whether their sustained efforts to hang on to wonderkid Billy Gilmour have paid off.

The 15-year-old midfielder, star of Scotland’s Victory Shield campaign, is wanted by London giants, Chelsea and Arsenal.

Both are willing to pay handsomely to seal a pre-contract deal now, rather than wait until he turns 16 in the summer.

That’s the stage where, under FIFA guidelines for under-23s, they will have a window in which they can pick him up for a compensation fee of just £100,000.

The Light Blues are desperate to keep Gilmour, and have been pulling out all the stops to persuade him his future is best served by staying put.

Manager Mark Warburton has even had him training with the first team, and recently waxed lyrical about his display for the Light Blues Under-20s in a game against an experienced Dundee side.

“Billy Gilmour is a Rangers player, and I hope very much that he sees a pathway here and works his way through to our first team,” said Warburton.

“Just now he’s 15 and needs to be looked after properly and taken through his development.”

Gilmour could be fast-tracked into the Light Blues’ first team in as little as 18 months.

Yet as much as being his current employers gives Rangers the opportunity to make a prolonged pitch to the player, they face daunting opposition for his signature.

On current form, Chelsea’s Academy is the best in England, with the west London club’s victory in the 2016 FA Youth Cup Final their third in a row, and their fifth in seven years.

And for an example of their pulling power, Rangers need look no further than across the city, where Islam Feruz was lured away from Celtic by Chelsea five years ago.

That the former Scotland youth international has markedly failed to live up to his potential would appear a warning, rather than a selling point.

Arsenal’s Academy, meanwhile, is renowned as being a conveyor belt for the Gunners’ first team.

Of the current side, Alex Iwobi, Francis Coquelin, Hector Bellerin, Kieran Gibbs and Jack Wilshere (on loan at Bournemouth) all came through the system.

Rangers loan midfielder Jon Toral is also a graduate, having been brought over from the Barcelona Academy at the same time as Bellerin.

Another is Gedion Zelalem, whom the Gunners loaned to Rangers last season.

Like Chelsea, they also have a reputation of persuading highly-sought-after teenagers to join.

Either way, Rangers look set to win, with Gilmour set to commit one way or another rather than run down the clock on his deal.