Leon Balogun, Andy Firth and James Maxwell leave Rangers, while ex-Ibrox flop announces retirement

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Leon Balogun, Andy Firth and James Maxwell have left Rangers following the expiration of their contracts.

Light Blues manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst has stepped up his summer rebuild ahead of next season by releasing the trio.

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It is widely expected that the void left by experienced defender Balogun will be filled by highly-rated youngster Leon King next season.

Rangers defender Leon Balogun holds off Hearts striker Ellis Simms during the Scottish Cup final at Hampden. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

The Nigerian internationalist joined Rangers in July 2020 before penning a 12-month contract extension the following summer.

The centre-back made 65 appearances for the Gers and was part of a strong defensive line, helping the club secure the Scottish Premiership title for the first time in a decade during season 2020/21, with an unbeaten home record.

The 33-year-old scored two goals during the club’s sensational run to the Europa League Final in Seville last month but his time in Scotland was hampered by various injury problems.

Back-up goalkeeper Firth arrived at Ibrox in January 2019 from non-league football to provide added competition for Allan McGregor and Wes Foderingham.

Despite his lack of first-team action, the 25-year-old was offered a contract extension after being considered a great personality to have around the group by former manager Steven Gerrard.

The former Liverpool youth academy product spent the second half of last season on loan at Championship side Partick Thistle but failed to dislodge Jags No.1 and Player of the Year Jamie Sneddon.

Full-back Maxwell failed to break into the Gers first-team after loan spells with Ayr United and Queen of the South.

The 20-year-old, who has been strongly linked with a move to Partick Thistle, confirmed his exit on social media last night.

He wrote: “Thank you @RangersFC for everything, met friends for life and had many great experiences. Excited to see what’s up next.”

Meanwhile, former Rangers defender Bruno Alves has announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 40.

The Portuguese centre-back became arguably the biggest name to join the Ibrox outfit during Pedro Caixinha’s tenure in May 2017, but he struggled to adapt to life in Scotland.

The ex-Porto and Fenerbahce star had his two-year contract terminated early after making 25 appearances for the Glasgow giants.

Bruno Alves will be tasked with leading the Rangers backline. Picture: SNS

Alves, who earned 96 international caps during a stellar 20-year playing career, most recently turned out for Greek side Apollon Smyrnis.

And withing 24 hours of hanging up his boots, Alves is returning to former club AEK Athens as their new sporting director.

He posted a message on his official Instagram account, confirming: “Today I communicate that I finish my football player career being greatful for everything and all clubs, managers, teammates, coaches and people who were involved in my sporting life.

“Thank you to my family and friends for all the support at all times. A journey that ends but other opportunities will arise.

“See you soon. Thank you.”