When Steven Gerrard was asked a couple of weeks ago about the importance of the different competitions, he was at pains to point out that while Europe was important financially, it was the SPL where the real stuff mattered.
And most Rangers fans, while loving another new shiny European adventure to look forward to this season, would agree with that.
However, Gerrard has dropped a repeated clue all season that European success is in fact his number one priority, and the financial rewards for getting to the group stage were too great to have the SPL as the more important tournament.
And that clue is picking his strongest possible XI at any given time not for Hibs, not for St Mirren, but for Midtjylland and for Legia.
Not even Celtic were furnished with Rangers’ best team, with Jordan Jones and Alfredo Morelos especially benched and the formation a mess.
But in Europe, while Legia was undeniably a slog, Alfredo Morelos has been the main man up front, and the midfield has been the strongest one possible.
Against St Mirren, Filip Helander got an outing to save Niko Katic for the second leg of Legia. Kamara lined up in place of Davis and Defoe was the striker again for the SPL. And in Gerrard’s eyes second choice left winger Jordan Jones was the man lining up rather than Ojo.
However Gerrard spins it about keeping things ‘fresh’ there is a distinct pattern in which matches who is ‘freshened’ up.
And the perception of Rangers’ best team probably seems to be:
McGregor; Tavernier, Goldson, Katic, Flanagan; Davis, Aribo, Jack; Arfield, Morelos, Ojo/Jones (now Kent, of course).
And that’s the one that mostly played in the UEL, rather than the SPL, which saw more and more fringe players like Kamara, Halliday, Barisic and Helander getting their turns.
Whether that policy now changes for the group stage of the UEL, given the money is assured, is unknown – we’ll find out later this month as Jaap Stam brings his Dutch men to Govan to open our group account.
But it’s been clear this season – even if he says the SPL is the number one, Steven Gerrard has played Rangers’ best teams in Europe.