Alex Rae believes automatic Champions League qualification next season will be hugely motivational for Rangers as they look to retain their Premiership title.
The Light Blues are still basking in the triumph of their 55th league victory – the first in a decade – and will have to negotiate one qualifier and a play-off to get into European football’s elite club competition this season.
However, the 2021/22 Scottish champions will almost certainly qualify for the money-spinning group stages of the Champions League next year.
Former Gers midfielder Rae, who played at Ibrox between 2004 and 2006, believes that prospect is “without doubt a brilliant motivator”.
The 51-year-old former Millwall, Sunderland and Wolves player, speaking at the launch of the book ‘Going for 55: Rangers’ journey back to the top of Scottish football’, said: “The players will be aware of the rewards at the end of the season if they can retain the title and group stage entry would be remarkable because, due to the co-efficient, it has been such a long time.
“So it gives them an opportunity to springboard into the group stages.
“You want to compete at the top level, you want to be against the big hitters like Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich.
“Even when I was playing in England and coming up to the European nights as a Rangers supporter, they are very special.
“I was speaking to Mark Hateley about Rangers against Leeds in the early 90s. They are very special to the fans as well and they will be desperate to get that again.
“Rangers have done great in the Europa League but you want to bounce into that top competition. That has got to be the motivation.
“First and foremost, Steven Gerrard will try to get into the Champions League this year. It is about here and now.
“I like the fact Steven has said 55 is finished, let’s park that and refocus and reset the goals.
“The infrastructure is in place, the board is very settled and committed to a long-term plan.
“Steven has said it’s just the beginning and they are wanting more success, which I like.”