Europa League Final Has Potential To Be The Most Lucrative Fixture In Rangers History

The riches on offer are significant for a Scottish club and it could set the Light Blues up for years to come
11:30, 08 May 2022

During the jubilant scenes at Ibrox following a breathless Europa League semi-final victory over RB Leipzig, various Rangers players briefly stepped away from the celebrations to take a moment to contemplate the scale of their achievement.

Ryan Kent looked teary, John Lundstram was overwhelmed, and Kemar Roofe stood stunned as chaos ensued around him. A squad cobbled together with modest means had toppled yet another Bundesliga heavyweight, and this time they did it without a recognised centre forward.

After losing their first two group games in the competition, a first European final in 14 years looked like an improbable dream for the Scottish giants. Yet on a typically wet and dreich Glasgow evening on Thursday, the players ensured their remarkable adventure will end in Spanish sunshine.

The Rangers starting XI against the Germans cost less than £15 million to assemble. To put that in perspective, Leipzig expect to generate four times that amount from the anticipated sale of Christopher Nkunku this summer. Many of Giovanni Van Bronckhorst’s men have enhanced reputations due to their European exploits, but the majority of the squad have endured setbacks, hardship and rejection throughout their careers.

James Tavernier had seven loan spells in the English lower leagues before finding a permanent home in Glasgow, Joe Aribo was at Staines Town seven years ago, and Glen Kamara had to go on trial at Dundee after being released by Arsenal. Leon Balogun and Lundstram also encountered early disappointment, yet the pair will soon participate in a European final.

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The majority of the Rangers squad have had to fight and scrap to earn respect and recognition – and if they can overcome Eintracht Frankfurt and end a 50-year wait for a second European trophy, they will be forever remembered.

Over the last decade, only English or Spanish sides have claimed the Europa League title. The dominance of the big leagues has become all-encompassing, but Rangers can upset the trend, and strike a blow for historical clubs marginalised in the modern game.

Smaller leagues have, at least, been represented in the Europa Finals in recent years. Benfica (twice), Dnipro and Ajax have tried to record famous victories, but all have failed to overcome the might of English and Spanish powerhouses.

A cacophony of noise greeted the full-time whistle on Thursday evening, and the crowd played a pivotal role in driving their team across the finishing line. Regular attendees at Ibrox have become accustomed to glory nights in recent seasons, they arrive at the stadium with optimism and belief, and Steven Gerrard has to be credited with laying the foundations upon which Van Bronckhorst has built on.

In 2008, battle-hardened but weary, Rangers took to the field for a UEFA Cup final against Zenit Saint Petersburg. A hectic schedule hindered their build-up to the Manchester showpiece, although the Russian side, with Andrey Arshavin in their ranks, thoroughly merited victory. In contrast to 14 years ago, the Light Blues have little to play for in the remaining league fixtures and can rest and rotate players before embarking on the journey to Spain.

The winners of the Europa League will collect a cheque for €8.6 million, gain access to the Champions League group stages and book a spot in the Super Cup final next season.

It has the potential to be the most lucrative fixture in Rangers history. The riches on offer are significant for a Scottish club, it could set the Light Blues up for years to come, but at this stage of a European campaign, prestige and honour comes before finance.

Rangers welcome Dundee United to Ibrox on Sunday afternoon for their penultimate home game of the Premiership season.

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