Steven Gerrard admits Alfredo Morelos has had his head turned by rumours of a move to Lille.
But the Ibrox boss does not think the constant transfer speculation swirling around the Colombian was to blame as his miserable 2020 continued in Germany.
Morelos is understood to have agreed terms on a move to Ligue 1, but so far Lille have failed to come back with an improved offer after failing with an opening £13million bid last month.
However, the 23-year-old’s value is unlikely to rise any further while his form since the turn of the year continues to nose dive.
He has scored just once since January and again looked well off the pace as Gers finally saw their 13-month Europa League campaign ended by a 1-0 defeat to Bayer Leverkusen.
However, Gerrard admitted it was not only Morelos who failed to turn up against Peter Bosz’s impressive Bundesliga outfit, who sealed a 4-1 aggregate triumph thanks to Moussa Diaby’s second-half winner.
Gerrard, who has made sure he has adequate cover up front should the striker depart with Tuesday’s double swoop for Kemar Roofe and Cedric Itten, told BT Sport: “I don’t know (if Morelos will still be here next week) because I can’t control what goes on outside.
“Everyone knows he’s had his head turned, for sure. There’s no denying that.
“We just move forward. My focus is on the team and the players who want to be here. My focus is certainly now on St Mirren.
“If a bid comes, and I’ll say it again, that the board like and are interested in and the player tells me face-to-face that he wants to go, then we’ll see what happens.
“I don’t think (the speculation is showing in his performances). I think Alfredo is professional enough to block the noise out and focus.
“He hasn’t had the best of games tonight but we haven’t as a team either and there’s certainly no blame been pointed at anyone.
“We’ve given it our best shot and unfortunately we’ve fallen short.
“We all have to improve – but Alfredo needs to remain focused.”
Gers were made to wait five months to complete their last-16 tie with Leverkusen.
The second leg at the Bay Arena was on hold due to the coronavirus crisis – but Bosz’s team were red hot and added Diaby’s goal to the 3-1 triumph they recorded at Ibrox back in March.
It was a tough watch for Gerrard, whose side started the competition against St Joseph’s back in July 2019, clocking up 18 games along the way.
But he challenged his team to reach the levels of Leverkusen – who now face Inter Milan in Monday’s quarter-final – when they return to European action in just 42 days’ time for the start of this season’s qualifying campaign.
He said: “We’ve come a long way in the last two years. We failed to get past some part-timers (Progres Neiderkorn) two seasons ago – now we’re competing in the last 16.
“We’re disappointed with the result. I don’t think we found our level of performance that would have allowed us to give it a good go.
“There’s a lot we can improve on. We’ve found a level tonight to strive for. Hopefully one day we can get to that level.
“The run has been amazing, the players have given me everything. At times we’ve punched above our weight. But I’ll keep pushing the players to improve.”