Forget Champions League and riches - this is why Rangers fans were slumped on kerbs after chance to become legends

It’s difficult to weigh up what the biggest miss for Rangers will be after the Europa League Final versus Eintracht Frankfurt.

Of course, Aaron Ramsey’s penalty was the most significant of all on the night – the only in the shoot-out not converted – but the ramifications of defeat in Seville are still being weighed up the morning after the night before.

Champions League qualification or the Europa League trophy? That is the question.

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Rangers were 12 yards away from a place in the Champions League group stages and all the riches that come with it, seeded first, the additional £4.3m financial bounty of the European Super Cup, winners fees and more. Now they face two qualifiers in July and August for a second chance – another early campaign start – but even the clamour for UEFA’s premier competition and all its associated prestige seems a little removed from the immediate sense of disappointment and loss in the Estadio Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan.

This was Rangers’ chance for a second European trophy in 50 years. The first for a Scottish team in four decades. That is what the fans flocked to Seville to see, not a team qualify for six guaranteed matches with a bit of glamour next season.

It was about the trophy.

That is why the Rangers supporters were slumped on the kerbs at full-time. They had fantasised of the trophy, what the team had made them dream of through an epic European journey.

Rangers might still get through to the group stages anyway. After all, they claimed the scalps of Borussia Dortmund, Red Star Belgrade and RB Leipzig on this European run. But win that tournament? That’s not a realistic expectation.

Aaron Ramsey of Rangers looks dejected as they walk past the UEFA Europa League trophy following their sides defeat in the UEFA Europa League final match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers FC at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on May 18, 2022 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***

Wednesday night was. Rangers had the chance to become club legends, immortalised forever.

Scottish teams have reached ten finals in 62 years, four in the past 40. This doesn’t come around often. “Make us dream”, the fans said. Better teams than Eintracht Frankfurt had been beaten along the way to Seville.

It had taken 17 games to reach the final, a herculean effort in itself, but add some unforgettable nights and the elimination of some oft the biggest names in European football heightened hopes.

That sort of demanding run can’t be a viable expectation every single season either, even if the coefficient is improved, but Rangers’ (and by that measure Celtic’s) best chance of European success lies in the Europa or Conference League, outside the billionaires’ playground of the Champions League.

Frankfurt's Serbian midfielder Filip Kostic lifts the trophy as Eintracht Frankfurt players celebrate after winning the UEFA Europa League final football match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Glasgow Rangers at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan stadium in Seville on May 18, 2022. (Photo by JAVIER SORIANO/AFP via Getty Images)

This is why Wednesday was such an opportunity and why the primary disappointment on Thursday morning is that James Tavernier did not wake up next to the Europa League trophy. The party occasion that fans had travelled far and wide to be part of now an anti-climax, torn away in the narrowest, most punishing of circumstances. What might have been.

It might mean they don’t make the Champions League – at worst they will return to the Europa League – but Rangers had the chance to be legends until Kevin Trapp stopped Ramsey’s penalty, drained all the anticipation away and denied the Rangers fans the sight they had waited so long and come from far and wide to see.

The dream continues to be just that. The rest will wait.

James Tavernier of Rangers leads their side to collect their runners-up medals after defeat in the UEFA Europa League final match between Eintracht Frankfurt and Rangers FC at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan on May 18, 2022 in Seville, Spain. (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
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