Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s men have vanquished a catalogue of distinguished opponents to get to this stage, including two Bundesliga giants in Borussia Dortmund and RB Leipzig. Had someone turned round to any person associated with Rangers and told them back in August that they would face a middling team from Germany’s top tier for a shot to win Europe’s second-tier competition, they would have been branded crazy. Yet here we are ...
There is obviously the chance for Rangers to add a piece of European silverware to the trophy cabinet to sit alongside the Cup Winners’ Cup snared in 1972 when they overcame Dynamo Moscow. There is the prestige of winning such a coveted prize. But beyond that, there is a world of riches on offer, which could alter the financial landscape for the club going forward.
Rangers have already guaranteed themselves UEFA prize money of at least £14 million from their remarkable run and they can bank on a worse-case scenario of another €4.6 million (around £4 million) which goes to the runners-up. If they lift the trophy, they will receive an additional €4 million (around £3.4 million), taking their total Europa League prize money haul to €20.76 (around £17.8 million).
But that won’t be the end of the financial bounty Rangers can anticipate if they overcome Eintracht Frankfurt.
It would also secure Rangers a place in the UEFA Super Cup final in Helsinki, Finland, on August 10, where they would face the winners of this season’s Champions League, either Liverpool or Real Madrid. Appearance prize money in that one-off match is €3.5 million (around £3 million) with a further €1.5 million (around £1.3 million) for the winners of the competition.
By far the most significant bonus for Rangers in winning the Europa League, however, would be direct entry to the group stage of next season’s Champions League. Furthermore, they would be placed among the elite Pot 1 clubs in the draw.
That would ensure a guaranteed participation fee of €15.64 million (around £13.4 million) and a further UEFA coefficient ranking payment of €3.6 million (around £3.1 million), while subsequent results in the group games are worth €2.8 million (around £2.4 million) per win and €930,000 (around £800,000) per draw. In all, that’s a potential windfall in the region of £33 million.
All of those figures are from prize money alone – Rangers’ revenue this season will also have been massively enhanced by ticket sales and commercial income from their Europa League matches at Ibrox. That would be increased yet again at a higher level of football.
Considering Rangers have pointed to financial constraints in the past, with share issues and searches for investment and alternative revenue streams, this would ease any pressures coming down the tracks for the club’s board.
It would also allow Van Bronckhorst and sporting director Ross Wilson to shop in a different marketplace, with the lure of Champions League football attracting a higher calibre of player. This will be crucial in their bid to reclaim their cinch Premiership crown from Celtic, who are guaranteed Champions League football as fourth seeds by virtue of dethroning the Ibrox club this term.
Rangers will, at worst, be in the qualifiers for Europe’s premier competition due to finishing second in the league, but the path to the group stages is a minefield. Triumphing over Eintracht Frankfurt looks easier on paper than navigating such a route.
Being able to keep pace with Celtic in terms of incomings is one thing, but what winning the Europa League might also be able to do is keep the wolf from the door.
Rangers players are in demand. Not a month goes by when some of their best talents are being linked with English clubs. Joe Aribo is being courted by a clutch of Premier League, as is Ryan Kent, so often linked with Leeds United. Just this week, it emerged defender Calvin Bassey – who has been outstanding this season – has become a target for Aston Villa, who are managed by former Ibrox boss Steven Gerrard. Glen Kamara and Alfredo Morelos are two further players who are on the radars of bigger fish.
Champions League football, or enhanced terms, could persuade the core of this team to remain in Govan for one further season. Out-of-contract defender and leader Connor Goldson is expected to head south but even he may have his head turned by what may lie in store in 2022-23. Veteran goalkeeper Allan McGregor could even shelve retirement – but if he doesn’t, Rangers can at least try to bring in a goalkeeper of a similar level to the 40-year-old.
Every transfer window, Rangers feel in danger of losing their best men, but this summer carries the real prospect of a changing of the guard. Van Bronckhorst will want to bring in more of his own players and to hit the next level, he will need financial backing. This is why, come kick-off on Wednesday at the Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan Stadium in southern Spain, the stakes are so high for Rangers.
So many of the chapters of this captivating story have kept us all engrossed but as we approach the end, all concerned with the club are desperately hoping for a happy ending. Against Braga, at the quarter-final stage, a banner in the Broomloan Stand read “Make us dream”. It’s not only the fans now that are fantasising about unadulterated glory.