The unveiling of a genuine European star together with the anticipation of hosting glamorous opposition at Ibrox – it felt almost like old times at Rangers yesterday.
Bruno Alves, the club’s 93-times capped Portuguese centre-half, was finally unveiled, not a day too soon for many fans. Indeed, in one significant respect, he is already too late.
Alves expressed sorrow he could not have joined earlier to try to help save Rangers from the embarrassment earned by being dumped out of the Europa League at the first hurdle by lowly opponents from Luxembourg .
This was not news the decorated veteran Portuguese defender wanted to hear as he recovered from a near year-long schedule, most recently involving the Confederations Cup in Russia.
An arduous 12 months of commitments for both club – he was at mid-table Serie A side Cagliari during the last campaign – and country was why, after discussions with manager Pedro Caixinha, pictured, Alves was permitted to arrive later in pre-season. The expectation was he would be able to contribute to a second qualifying round tie.
A shock 2-0 defeat in Luxembourg just over a fortnight ago meant this was wishful thinking. Instead he is gearing up to make his debut in tomorrow’s home friendly against Marseille, the opposition when Rangers fell just short of reaching the Champions League final in 1993.
It is a long way from there to being eliminated from Europe’s secondary club competition over two legs at the hands of the fourth best side in Luxembourg.
Even more expectation now surrounds Alves’ arrival. Rather than just being Caixinha’s flagship signing, he occupies the role of potential saviour for his compatriot, who is already feeling the heat. No pressure then Bruno?
Unsurprisingly he doesn’t agree with the view he could represent Caixinha’s last chance of succeeding at Ibrox.
“I think we need to wait and see,” said Alves. “It is too early to think about that (the criticism). I think we need to see what is going to happen in the season. He has not had enough time to build what he wants to build, and to put Rangers in the place the club needs to be.
“I know you don’t get time in Glasgow but that just doesn’t only happen here. It is all over football. He is trying to get over his ideas and that takes time. Nothing comes so fast.”
Both Caixinha’s reputation in Portugal and the size of Rangers were the draw for him rather than European football, Alves explained. Clearly he expected to have some involvement in the Europa League but he has already reconciled himself to a season without it.
More pressing now is the need to present some sort of challenge to Celtic and also Aberdeen, who finished above Rangers in the league last season and will have hopes of doing so again in the coming campaign.
“I was surprised to hear Rangers had gone out of Europe but at the same time anything can happen in football,” he said. “You can’ t predict in football. At the same time, my aim was to play European football for Rangers (this season) but it’s not possible.
“I have already changed my mindset and I need to prepare for the test of these friendlies (Rangers play Sheffield Wednesday next weekend) and be ready for the beginning of the league, which is most important.
“We can’t do anything about Europe now. We need to move on. I think we need to think about ourselves, about Rangers and what we can do,” he added. “The way we can prepare for the Premiership and so on. I came here to win.
“Almost all of the clubs I played for I won and this is my expectation for Rangers now I am here. I hope that, altogether, we can do something good.”
Alves seems perfectly suited for the job of sharing a burden; at just over 6ft 2in, he boasts the physical attributes of Virgil van Dijk, who strolled through Scottish football for Celtic before joining Southampton.
Alves is, of course, at the other end of his career. A third generation professional footballer – both his father and grandfather starred for Brazilian giants Flamengo, while his two brothers also play – he is clearly steeped in the game. At 35, and having signed a two-year contract at Rangers, he seems in exceptional shape. But he doesn’t want to look too far ahead.
“I feel really good at this moment,” the former Porto, Zenit St Petersburg and Fenerbahce player said. “ I played for the national team in the Confederations Cup and I have played a lot.
“At this moment I think day by day and I am focusing on this year. I cannot focus on what’s going to happen in two or three years because this day is most important for me.
“What is coming is important but I feel really good in myself and my body with my experience and the way I am training. I am getting good feedback every day.”
Alves seems naturally suited to skipper, an honour many Rangers fans have already bestowed upon him, prematurely it seems. Lee Wallace is the current captain and the only toes Alves intends stepping on are those of opposition centre-forwards.
“No, no, we already have captains in the team,” he said. “I think they have more experience of leading the team and helping me to be better and play better here.
“I am just thinking of preparing myself, staying fit and doing my job.”
• Rangers play Marseille tomorrow afternoon at Ibrox, kick-off 3pm. Tickets for the game are on sale priced £15 for adults, £10 for concessions and £5 for kids from www.rangers.co.uk, Rangers ticket centre or by calling 0871 702 1972
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