Hearts manager Craig Levein has claimed reported Rangers target John Souttar is the “best centre-back in Scotland” – and admits the Jambos have “all bases covered” when it comes to interest in the Scotland international.

According to the Evening Times, the Gers could have to spend £2million to get Souttar across the M8 this summer  as Steven Gerrard looks to strengthen his squad.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 13: John Souttar of Heart of Midlothian F.C. celebrates after scoring his team's second goal with Uche Ikpeazu of of Heart of Midlothian F.C. and Christophe Berra of Heart of Midlothian F.C. during the Scottish Cup Semi Final match between Heart of Midlothian and Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Hampden Park on April 13, 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

Levein thinks Souttar can compete with any striker in Scotland physically, and raved about Souttar’s ability on the ball, but admits they could lose the defender this summer.

“For me, he is the best centre-back in Scotland — for sure,” Levein told Football Scotland.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - APRIL 13: Jordan White of Inverness Caledonian Thistle is challenged by John Souttar of Heart of Midlothian F.C. during the Scottish Cup Semi Final match between Heart of Midlothian and Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Hampden Park on April 13, 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

“He can do wonderful things with the ball — his passing on Saturday was fantastic — and he is now capable of competing physically with any centre- forward.

“We’ve got all bases covered with John. He recently signed a three-and-a-half-year deal so it puts us in a strong position if there is anybody who is interested in trying to sign him. We’re in a good place in that regard.

 

“Whatever happens, we’ll just have to deal with it if anything comes along. The hard work’s been done and we’ve protected ourselves if he does leave but I don’t think that will happen this summer.

“This is football though – things happen when you least expect it.”

Souttar moved to Hearts in 2016 from Dundee United and has been a key part of the side at Tynecastle under Levein.

GLASGOW, SCOTLAND - OCTOBER 07: John Souttar of Heart of Midlothian vies with Alfredo Morelos of Rangers during the Scottish Ladbrokes Premiership match between Rangers and Hearts at Ibrox Stadium on October 7, 2018 in Glasgow, Scotland.

(Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)

The defender has also forced his way into the Scotland reckoning and would be a solid addition to Gerrard’s squad this summer when Joe Worrall and Gareth McAuley move on.

While he’s maybe not quite at the level Levein has him pegged at, there’s definitely a talented player there who would improve the Gers squad.

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