Mohamed Diomande had the Right to Dream. Now he is living his dream. He was once inspired by the biggest names in African football but a move to Rangers could see him become a role model in his own right as he forges a path in the footsteps of his heroes.

The tale of Diomande is as remarkable as it is heart-warming. His decision to leave the family home on the outskirts of Abidjan was just the first step in the journey. As Philippe Clement stated once again ahead of the victory at Kilmarnock, Ibrox will not be his last stop in a game that he seems destined to reach the top of.

Diomande was once the kid who wore a Rangers strip at the Right to Dream Academy in Ghana. A decade on, he will pull on the famous jersey in the Europa League at one of the most revered arenas in the game. A quarter-final berth is up for grabs when Clement’s side face Benfica and Diomande will have an integral role to play as he seeks to continue a hugely impressive start to his Rangers career.

At 22, Diomande has so much more to give and to achieve. Clement has spoken enthusiastically about his potential within the game and the £4.5million fee that Rangers have committed themselves to already looks like a shrewd bit of business. The man himself is softly spoken but fiercely driven, the knowledge of where he has come from and where he can get to ensuring that he takes nothing for granted as he continues his rise and rise.

READ MORE: Inside Diomande's rise and Ibrox transfer: Rangers kits as a kid, Koppen and a dream

The system that Diomande emerged through before he moved to Denmark four years ago has also produced the likes of Mohammed Kudus, formerly of Ajax and now of West Ham United, and Kamaldeen Sulemana, the Southampton forward. That duo represent the future of the Ghanian game. Diomande has Ivorian legends to look up to as his burgeoning reputation is enhanced.

“They have been role models and opened the way and shown how it can be done at the top,” Diomande said when asked about the impact of African players such as Didier Drogba and Sadio Mane in European football. “I’m just trying to follow their footsteps and be the best I can be so people look at me and want to follow what I’ve done. I looked up to those guy and also some of my team-mates who I played with at Nordsjælland like Mohammed Kudus. They have motivated me to reach that level and compete at the top level.

“My heroes were Didier Drogba and Yaya Toure. I haven’t had the chance to meet with them yet but I’ve spoken with them on the phone before. They just told me how important it was to work hard and follow my dreams. It won’t be easy but they know I can do it because they’ve seen me play.

“Toure was the guy I watched a lot when I was younger. He was an amazing player and I’m trying to emulate what he’s done in the game. But it’s also important to be myself too because I know I have my own attributes. For me, the best thing I can do is be the best version of myself I can be and then I know people will look up to me.”

Like Diomande, the stars of the past that he was captivated by arrived on these shores knowing that they had the platform to build upon their potential. Medals were won and memories were made as kids back in their respective homelands were given an insight into what could be possible if hard work, and perhaps luck, matched their talent. Diomande could soon be held up in a similar manner.

The Herald: SNS

His first months at Ibrox will see him challenge for the Premiership title and the Scottish Cup and both are realistic ambitions. A Europa League prize may be more aspirational but recent history shows that Rangers cannot be discounted on the continent and their victory over Real Betis that secured a spot in the knockout round stands as one of the finest results of Clement’s tenure.

The challenge awaiting them at the Stadium of Light is a daunting one. Rangers will not be overcome with the occasion, though. For Diomande, it is another opportunity to shine.

“I did, I saw all the stuff they did and how they progressed through,” Diomande said when asked if he had watched Rangers on the run to Seville. “That was also one of the big reasons why I decide to come here. I’d love to have my own similar experience. I’m living the dream here and for me that means playing at the highest level of football that I can. Right here, that’s what’s happening.

“Competing at this stage in the tournament means you’re one of the best teams in Europe as to get here you need to be one of the best in your league and to compete against different clubs on the continent. It’s a good step and a good competition for everybody to grow as a footballer.

“I’m excited and looking forward to [the Benfica game]. I know Benfica is a big team but Rangers is a big club also. I’m sure my team-mates and myself are going to be ready for every minute of the game and do whatever we can to win the game.”

The glamour tie with Benfica will not be Diomande’s first taste of European action this term. It is, however, a step up in level. He was part of the Nordsjælland squad that earned a shot at Conference League progression but wasn’t involved in the side that ultimately came up short.

READ MORE: How Rangers signed Mohamed Diomande: Clement sanction, weather delay, new direction

Emphatic home victories over Ludogorets and Fenerbahce, who were beaten 7-1 and 6-1 respectively, had the Danes on course for qualification after four points were collected against Spartak Trnava. It went down to the final 90 minutes and a narrow defeat in Bulgaria ended their Conference campaign.

“It was a real big disappointment,” Diomande said. “I remember, the last game away to Ludogorets I couldn’t play because I was suspended. But I travelled to Bulgaria with the team and I saw how it ended up. It was very sad and my team-mates were not happy.

“We’d had some unbelievable moments earlier in the group at Farum Park and the fans had some great experiences as it had been such a long time that they’d gone without European football. I really thought we were going to make it through but it didn’t happen. Now I just want to talk about my team here because I’m very happy at Rangers.

“It’s another step up into the Europa League. It’s a good opponent that we face in the next round in Benfica and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

It is one that Rangers and Diomande are well prepared for. The midfielder has quickly established himself at Ibrox and the goals in the wins against St Johnstone and Hearts were evidence of his quality.

Supporters may not have been fully aware of his game or his billing before he completed an initial loan move to Ibrox but they have quickly taken Diomande to their hearts. Behind the scenes, he has made friends and made a home from home.

“It’s going to be difficult to mention all of them because from the first moment I arrived here, it’s been amazing,” Diomande said of the welcome from his team-mates. “Everybody in the dressing room has been so welcoming. I thought it was going to be a cold country but everybody has been so warm! I feel at home.”