In so many ways, Rangers are a Champions League club. In some of the most important ones, they are only a Europa League team.

When it comes to history, support and expectations, Rangers can consider themselves to be amongst the European elite. It is, after all, an institution in the game and there are few places that stir the senses of managers, players and fans quite like Ibrox.

Yet the days of Rangers being able to compete at the highest echelon on the continent are all-but gone thanks to factors that are outwith their control. The challenge will only become even more ominous as the rich get richer and clubs from leagues such as ours are left behind.

That won’t stop Rangers striving to achieve, though. A seat at the top is still the ambition, even though events last term showed just how difficult life can be once you join the big boys.

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The Europa League euphoria on the road to Seville was quickly forgotten during a chastening Champions League campaign as Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s side were outfought and outclassed and the achievement of reaching the group stages proved to be a weight around the Dutchman’s neck.

Michael Beale must now replicate the feat but avoid history from repeating itself as he prepares for the third qualifying round tie with Servette over the next week. A greater hurdle will follow if the Swiss can be overcome but the end goal continues to inspire those in the boardroom and the changing room.

The campaign got off to a faltering start on Saturday as Beale's side were stunned by Kilmarnock. That setback will have focused minds ahead of Wednesday evening but that Premiership snapshot does not change the bigger Champions League picture.

“Of course it’s important that Rangers strives to be at the top table in European football, even more so when you look at the 2024-2027 cycle which isn’t too far away,” James Bisgrove, the Rangers chief executive officer, said as he spoke at the media launch of the new museum last Thursday. “I’m sure Michael and the team will be doing everything possible to navigate the Q3 round and if that goes well the play-off.

“I don’t think whether we’re in the Champions League or the Europa League group stage will have a material impact in terms of what we’re doing with the squad as we’re pretty much there now in terms of building a squad that we think can compete in the Champions League.

“Of course it’s not easy. We’ve got the test now against Servette and then you look at the potential teams we could play in the playoff.

“They are really difficult ties. But we hope that we’ve assembled a squad that Michael can be really competitive with in terms of getting to that group stage.

The Herald: Michael Beale

“Look, I think both competitions are fantastic. Look at the memories we had on the road to Seville. Rangers fans will hold those dear for a very long time.

“But it’s not our aim to be there. Our aim is to be in the Champions League. If we aren’t able to make it then we’ll look to make an absolute success of the Europa League.”

Achievement on the field is only part of the mission statement that Bisgrove is working through and working towards following his appointment at Ibrox.

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His tenure as head of the commercial department saw record revenues posted and he now has even greater scope to boost Rangers in a financial sense as the corps of investors continue to play their part.

Across the city, Celtic already have the benefit of secured Champions League cash this term. The Old Firm financial battle is key in the fight for supremacy in Scotland but Bisgrove isn’t daunted by the cash advantages that are enjoyed at Parkhead.

“At the moment we’re focusing on Rangers and the board have really backed the manager in terms of the investment in the squad,” Bisgrove said. “You can also look at the investment in the infrastructure. You look at the Rangers museum and it’s up there with any museum in Europe.

“We’ve got Edmiston House, we’re going to expand the stadium at the start of next summer and we’re going to improve the disabled facilities. So the board and our investors will continue to back the manager and improve the football club.

The Herald: James Bisgrove at Ibrox

“At the same time we’ll run ourselves in a manner that’s financial sustainable. We had a record revenue last year and we’re profitable and my belief is that we’ll be profitable again moving into future financial years.”

One of the ways in which Rangers can bridge that financial gap to Celtic is through an effective player trading model. There have been successes thus far but more must follow in the years to come.

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The first weeks of the window were spent securing the targets that Beale identified to add strength and depth to his squad and Bisgrove has been working closely with the boss and chairman John Bennett to ensure Rangers are ready for their European return.

The attentions will soon turn to the outgoings at Ibrox. A handful of title heroes have moved on already and the squad will be trimmed to make it more manageable and financially viable.

“We’ve consistently said that player trading is one of the four pillars of the football club,” Bisgrove said. “You’ve seen how active we’ve been in terms of the incomings.

“I think a lot of that is because a number of players left the club for whatever reason; retired, end of contract or transferred out.

“That player trading means we will always be receptive to conversations if it’s right for the football club in terms of our valuation, and if it’s right for the player. There are conversations ongoing and we’ll see what they bring between now and the end of the window.”

Bisgrove described his first few weeks at the helm as ‘full on’. In time, there will be an opportunity to take stock of the work that has been done and assess where Rangers are and where they are heading.

The to-do list will never end, though, and Bisgrove also has one eye on events at Hampden following his appointment to the SPFL board last month. After several seasons of fighting and the victory in the cinch row, Rangers are aiming to have a positive influence on the running of the game and have a leading role that is befitting of their stature.

“I hope so,” Bisgrove said when asked about more productive relationships with the football authorities. “We want to build meaningful relationships right across the football ecosystem, the SPFL, the SFA, other member clubs, UEFA and the ECA – Rangers needs to have an influence there.

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“We need to have a voice. Myself and John will go into that with a fresh perspective and always have Rangers’ best interests at heart.

“It doesn’t mean that we will always agree with every decision and that we won’t protect Rangers’ interests or have robust conversations. But we will go into that looking to build relationships as we believe that’s how Rangers should conduct themselves.”