PHILIPPE Clement last night spoke of his pain at having to leave Leon Balogun, Kieran Dowell and his new signing Oscar Cortes out of the Rangers squad for the Europa League knockout rounds.

Clement was unhappy with the players his predecessor Michael Beale selected for the group stages of the competition in September last year – but he still managed to oversee draws with Sparta Prague and Aris Limassol and wins over Sparta and Real Betis.

However, he was only allowed to make three positional changes to the updated squad which he submitted to UEFA yesterday ahead of the last 16 double header next month.

That means Balogun, the Nigerian centre half who has been one of his most consistent performers since he arrived in Scotland back in October but who was not in the original squad, will not be involved on the continent going forward.

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English midfielder Dowell, who featured in the Champions League qualifiers against Servette and PSV Eindhoven back in August, is currently recovering from surgery and will not be back until next month at the earlier. But will not be able to play if the Glasgow outfit overcome their next opponents and progress.

Colombian winger Cortes, who was signed from Lens on loan until the end of the season on Thursday and who could make his debut in the cinch Premiership match against Livingston in Govan this afternoon along with his fellow new boy Mohamed Diomande, is also omitted.  

The Herald: Jose Cifuentes, who was last night on the brink of a loan move to Cruziero in Brazil, Dowell and Sam Lammers, who has moved to Utrecht in his native Netherlands until the end of the season, drop out and Mohamed Diomande, Fabio Silva and Ridvan Yilmaz all come in.

Clement, who had to select eight locally trained or homegrown players, described the squad he inherited from Beale as “unusual” and confessed that not being able to involve Balogun, Cortes and Dowell had been difficult for him.

“I am not happy with the rule,” said Clement. “The rule is the rule for all the teams and I understand the idea. I was not totally aligned with how the European list started at the beginning of the season. It is also what it is. I can only make three changes. That will create a few players I wanted on the list cannot be. That’s a reality.

“Sam Lammers is out, so Fabio Silva is in, logical. Cifu is probably out so Diomande comes in instead of him. Ridvan will come on the list. So that means Leon Balogun, Kieran Dowell and Cortes cannot be on the list. That hurts me. 

“We have been puzzling for hours with the staff these past few days and you always come to the same conclusions. You cannot keep the balance unless you make these changes. Those are the rules.”

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Clement added: “We play a game. It’s like playing Monopoly at home. The rules are there, I am not making them. I am the coach of the players and these are the rules. You need to take all of this into account even for the future, how to give balance to your squad.

“That’s why it’s important to work hard with your academy to develop players. It’s a responsibility of the top teams in the league to get the best out of their young players and give them chances. You have to make them ready for the steps forward.

The Herald: “It’s crucial we develop our own Scottish talent and also see where the Scottish talent is in other clubs. It’s a big challenge, the players must know what they have to do. We need to make sure they are at a good physical level and that they have the connection together. It’s about moving together as a team. They need to be mentally ready too.”

Turkish left back Yilmaz was heavily linked with a move out of Rangers during the January transfer window – but Clement is convinced he is fully committed to the Ibrox club’s squad and is pleased he will have him available in the Europa League.

“If a player is not happy, if a player is not performing, he will never be on the pitch for me,” he said. “Clearly, Ridvan did the right things in training and in the games. That will continue for the next couple of months because he’s a player who is really happy to be in the building.

“If you look at finding a balance, then Ridvan needs to be in. You need two full-backs, that was a problem in the first round. If there was a problem with Borna (Barisic) we didn’t have any left full-back. That was a difficult point on that European list.”