How Rangers board's reluctance to cash in can be now vindicated

By guiding Rangers into the group stage of the Europa League three years on the trot, Steven Gerrard has made a significant contribution to the financial rebalancing of the Ibrox club.

Rangers captain James Tavernier is bidding to lead his team to qualification from Group D of the Europa League with two games to spare. (Photo by Craig Foy / SNS Group)

The revenue accrued by that achievement has provided the Rangers board and investors with the confidence to incur ongoing overall losses as part of a strategy they believe can return them to domestic pre-eminence in Scotland in the short term and ultimately re-establish themselves as a Champions League club.

In addition to sanctioning combined fees of around £9 million on the players signed by Gerrard in the last transfer window, Rangers chairman Douglas Park and his colleagues also rebuffed the opportunity to mitigate some of the club’s financial deficit with the sales of either Alfredo Morelos to Lille or Ryan Kent to Leeds United.

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As Gerrard prepares his players for their Europa League Group D meeting with Benfica at Ibrox on Thursday night, when victory could see them qualify for the knockout stage of the tournament with two games to spare, he believes continued success at continental level will reward Rangers with an even more valuable squad for future transfer windows.

People will take notice

“The assets in our squad will continue to grow value, 100 per cent,” said the Rangers manager. “When you speak to players and try to attract them to the club, the carrot you are using is European football and challenging against those top players, individually and collectively, from the likes of Galatasaray, Benfica, Porto and Feyenoord, to name a few.

“This is the level the players want to test themselves at. But it’s also a level a lot of people watch around the world. If you can prove you can compete and cope at this level, a lot of people are going to take note of that.

“It was the same for me when I played. When I broke into the Liverpool team as a local lad, it was big. But when I started playing in the Europa League and Champions League, your profile changes. That's the same as a player, coach or team as a whole. There are more eyes, more cameras, more countries watching you.

"The board support has been fantastic since the first day I came in. In terms of the numbers, obviously you have to take certain things into consideration given the timing of the accounts coming out. They could have looked very much different if we did accept a bid for one of our big assets.

“I think the important thing to know is that this team is in much better shape than it was when we came through the door. The team is littered now with big assets.”

Competing in a one-off game

After letting a 3-1 lead slip away against 10-man Benfica in the remarkable 3-3 draw in Lisbon three weeks ago, Rangers will look to make home advantage count against the Group D top seeds. But Gerrard is wary of judging his team’s overall progress against opponents whose influential Portuguese international playmaker Pizzi has predicted can win the Europa League this season.

“It’s two different situations,” added Gerrard. “Benfica are probably set as a squad, in terms of being littered with international footballers with big experience.

“They went into the transfer market heavily in the summer. They have players who are probably going to go again for £60 million plus.

“So I don’t think it’s fair to compare them with us who are on a two-year journey, still trying to evolve and aspire to be at Benfica’s level.

“Can we compete with Benfica in a one-off game? Of course we can, we have already proved that. We will try and prove it again on Thursday night.

“But I totally agree with Pizzi, because before a ball was kicked in this competition, without a doubt Benfica would be amongst the favourites. They have top class individual players, so why wouldn’t they be?"

Tav’s education

Rangers captain James Tavernier’s outstanding form has been a major factor in his team’s 21-match unbeaten run in all competitions since the start of the season, conceding only one goal in 10 home matches so far.

Tavernier, who has scored 13 goals and provided nine assists in the campaign, can reflect with satisfaction on the progress made by Rangers since he joined the club back in the summer of 2015.

"It’s definitely been a learning process,” said the 29-year-old right-back. “We’ve gone through a lot of players and a couple of managers during my time at Rangers. This is definitely the best squad we’ve had in that time.

“If we qualify on Thursday night with two games still left in the group, it would say a massive amount about where we have come from. We’ve had a great start to this group. We came off that pitch in Benfica disappointed that we were only coming home with a point when we knew we should have won the game.

"We know this will be another tough game. We have to concentrate on that and try to get the result we want. Everyone is looking forward to it because it’s at home. We wish the fans could be there.

“We have places up for grabs, competition in the back four is really high so that’s pushing everyone on to another level. We go game by game and try and not pay attention to the records, but we know what we’ve achieved already in those terms and we want to see that continue.

“We need to continue to keep working hard because we know that ultimately we haven’t won or achieved anything yet.”

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