By Wayne Veysey

11th Aug, 2020 | 10:43am

Exclusive: Sunderland & Joey Barton race to sign defender who's quit Ibrox

Sunderland are battling Fleetwood Town boss Joey Barton to sign Jon Flanagan after he quit Rangers, Football Insider can reveal.

The full-back, 27, was released by the Light Blues at the end of May upon the expiration of his contract.

A recruitment has told Football Insider that League One big hitters Sunderland and Fleetwood are keen on landing Flanagan on a free transfer.

The Liverpool academy product has spent the last two years at Ibrox after following Steven Gerrard north of the border from Anfield.

Flanagan was a valuable squad member under Gerrard but was never able to establish himself as a first choice.

Now he is keen to reignite his career with a move to a club whee he can play regularly.

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Both Sunderland and Fleetwood have strong promotion claims in the upcoming campaign after falling short in the prematurely terminated 2019-20 season.

Barton’s side finished sixth in League One before losing to Wycombe Wanderers in the play-offs, while the Black Cats ended eighth.

Fleetwood have already signed one recent Rangers departee this window, recruiting Barton’s former Gers teammate Jordan Rossiter permanently after his loan spell last season.

Like fellow Liverpool product Rossiter, Flanagan’s senior career has been hampered by a series of major injuries.

Nevertheless, he has been capped once by England, played 51 times for Liverpool, 39 matches for Rangers and also had spells at Burnley and Bolton Wanderers.

In other news, a Rangers target who “scared” Kristoffer Ajer tells club he wants move after 7-figure bid.