DEREK McInnes’ time in charge at Aberdeen has been successful on many levels but in the build up to Thursday’s Europa League qualifier against Burnley the Pittodrie club’s manager was left wistfully wondering what might have been achieved with even a fraction of their opponents’ budget.

This tie marks a fifth successive season in European competition since replacing Craig Brown in the job, during which the Dons have also become established as Celtic’s closest rivals in the league and won their only trophy in the last 25 years.

It is a revival of fortune that prompted Sunderland and Rangers to make failed attempts to attract McInnes but the man himself admits to being a little frustrated not to have done even better. The ambition was to have had at least one more piece of silverware in the trophy cabinet by now and to have progressed to the group stages of the Europa League, but the financial disparity domestically and further afield is a real handicap.

Of course Burnley play in the richest league in the world and can bid millions for players. By contrast McInnes has seen the likes of Anthony O’Connor go to Bradford City, Ash Taylor move to Northampton Town and just last week top-scorer Adam Rooney choose English non-league side Salford City ahead of Aberdeen.

That and the departure of Ryan Jack to Rangers, Jonny Hayes to Celtic and Kenny McLean to Norwich City have tested the ingenuity of someone who had a £250,000 bid for Doncaster Rovers striker John Marquis rejected. So will the new season be his toughest test?

“Who knows?” was the Aberdeen manager’s answer. “We’re judged on what we do against the Old Firm and the like, whereas it wasn’t so long ago that wasn’t the case. It pleases me that people put us in that bracket and we’ve earned the right to be there.

“You’ve got to try to get the best out of what you’ve got, and we’ve always done that. I would love more money to spend. I would love to have been able to give the players who have left us in the last couple of years more money to stay.

“I think of some of the players who have left in the last couple of seasons, and if we could have that team still together, if we could pay the money that would have kept them here, who knows how good we could have been.

“Sometimes you come against teams who nobody has heard of but when you look at them a bit closer, they’ve got good technical players. Then you look a bit closer again, and when we played someone like Kairat Almaty, the level they’re paying some of their players.

“It’s tough, but that’s the job and we’ll try to do it again. We’ve always had that belief in that dressing room. Privately, we always set our own targets and demands of each other as a squad and by and large we’ve always given ourselves a chance to meet them.

“Privately, we’re always very ambitious. The first target is probably to go and try and be in European football, that’s always been very important to us. That’s one of the things we always want to have to look forward to at the start of the season.”

Of course this tie against the team who finished the closest to the seemingly uncatchable top six in the English Premier League is not the ideal start and McInnes has been well aware of Sean Dyche’s qualities for a number of years.

He was first in direct opposition when McInnes played for West Bromwich Albion and the Burnley manager was an uncompromising presence in the Millwall side in 2002 before facing each other as bosses of Bristol City and Watford respectively nine years later.

Now they meet again at a time when their managerial stock has never been higher.

“Sean was one where you could always see the work had been done. His teams were always very well coached, well-drilled, good on set-plays with good physicality about them.

“It’s no surprise why a lot of clubs have tried to take him away from Burnley, but it looks a good fit for him. You can see his reputation is growing and growing.

“He was wholehearted as a player, fully committed and his team are certainly like that and we’re expecting a tough game.

“For them to have finished above a lot of teams with far bigger resources is a brilliant achievement, and it shows what can be done when a club’s operating in the right manner, with stability, familiarity and an identity about what they are.”

It sounds as though they have a lot in common.