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Rival managers hail ‘formidable’ Rangers after reaching Europa League final

Ange Postecoglou respects the job Giovanni van Bronckhorst has done in Europe (Steve Welsh/PA)
Ange Postecoglou respects the job Giovanni van Bronckhorst has done in Europe (Steve Welsh/PA)

Celtic manager Ange Postecoglou believes Rangers’ European success is further proof of how formidable an opponent the Ibrox side have been.

Postecoglou praised Gers for reaching the Europa League final with victory over RB Leipzig.

“They have done awfully well and they have deserved it,” said the Celtic manager, whose team could win the Scottish title this weekend.

“Over two legs, they were the better team and deserve to be in the final, and have been really strong in Europe all year.

“It’s been a tough week for them with the passing of Jimmy Bell. Whenever you work inside a football club and lose someone who has been such an integral part of the fabric, it must have been a tough week, particularly for the players and staff who dealt with him.

“They deserved to get through to the final and I think it says they are a very good football team, which I think they proved last year by going through the season undefeated, which is no mean feat, and this year with their strong performances in pretty much all the competitions.

“For us, I knew it was probably going to be our biggest challenge this year, apart from our own form and how we performed.

“If we were going to be successful we had to overcome a pretty formidable opponent.”

Celtic will go straight into the Champions League group stages if they clinch the title and Rangers will join them if they were to then beat Eintracht Frankfurt in the Europa League final in Seville on May 18.

Postecoglou agreed that having two Scottish representatives in Europe’s elite competition would be a boost for the country.

“It would, definitely, and both clubs would have earned it,” he said.

Former Celtic striker Mark McGhee claimed he had a tear in his eye when Rangers got through.

The Dundee manager, who was part of the last Scottish team to win a European trophy when Aberdeen claimed the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983, said: “I watched the game obviously and was in close contact with a lot of my friends who are Rangers supporters by text during the game and I have to say at the end it brought a tear to my eye. I am not exaggerating. I was so happy for them.

“It was just absolutely magnificent for Rangers and obviously it reflects brilliantly on Scottish football.”

St Johnstone manager Callum Davidson hailed Rangers’ “phenomenal” achievement.

Davidson, whose side drew away with Galatasaray in the Europa League qualifiers, said: “Some of the results they have had going through the knockout stages have been tremendous. It has shown that Scottish football isn’t in a bad place.

“What I heard from all the Rangers players is how hard they worked to get there. It is something you can look at, other players can look at and say, ‘well I tell you what, I want to do something special’.”

Motherwell manager Graham Alexander hopes his players use the Ibrox scenes as inspiration as they bid to snatch a place in the Europa Conference League qualifiers in the coming week.

Alexander said: “When we were trying to recruit players, we talked about the opportunity to compete at that level and against these clubs. We have gone unbeaten at Ibrox this season and you see Rangers beating some big European clubs there.

“There’s a lot of positive stuff to be involved in around Scottish football when you see those occasions. Every player that’s involved in our club has got to look at it and say ‘I want a bit of that’.

“I remember being a player and seeing other clubs getting promoted and celebrating and it had never happened to me. I wanted to be a part of that and it when it does happen it whets your appetite and you want to chase it again.

“Players have almost got to look at other clubs with a hint of jealousy and think ‘I want that to be us’. We have an opportunity to do something like that.”

Hearts manager Robbie Neilson, whose side are guaranteed group-stage football in Europe next season, said: “Scottish football has been knocked for a number of years but you can see it’s definitely on the up.

“Teams are doing well in Europe, Rangers getting to a final, the national team getting to the Euros and being a couple of games away from a World Cup. It’s great for Scottish football.

“It shows how far the game’s progressing that we could potentially have two teams in the group stage of the Champions League.

“That would be massive and that helps the co-efficient for everyone and makes it easier to qualify, which is huge.”