Byline: PETER JARDINE
FRANK de BOER would put his pocket money in euros on Barcelona to beat Celtic - but has urged Rangers fans to fervently hope for the reverse to help tempt players to Ibrox.
His verdict is a reflection on a sorry season in Govan but, frankly, de Boer's bigger-picture verdict is correct and Alex McLeish needs help from every corner as he scours Europe and Britain for better-quality players with a budget Dick Advocaat would have blown on a reserve goalkeeper.
De Boer reasons that an improved reputation for Scottish football can only help Rangers, with France international defender Jean-Alain Boumsong already en route.
'If I was placing a bet, then I would bet Barca,' said de Boer.
'They have shown how they can play at Parkhead and what they can do by winning eight games in a row.
They play very good one-touch football through Ronaldinho and the rest.
'It's a huge pitch in the Nou Camp with wide open spaces where they can stretch teams. I think they will get two goals - but hopefully Celtic can score one themselves and then it's a different story.
'It's not nice for us that Celtic are doing so well but it is good for the reputation of Scottish football if they have success in Europe.
'It actually helps Rangers - because it might help in persuading players to come here.
'If players see Celtic doing well they will say: "The SPL isn't so bad" and that can only be good for the management here.
'The standard in Scotland is good and every game can be hard - especially the away games when you must give 300 per cent to match the aggression and enthusiasm of the opponents.'
De Boer, who seems certain to head for a Qatar pay-day after Euro 2004, admits he would not like to be wrestling with McLeish's stress levels as Rangers face Dundee at Ibrox today in the first of three home games in eight days.
He came through the ranks with a marvellous Ajax side that won the Champions League in 1995 - current-Barca striker Patrick Kluivert scored the winner - but there are no guarantees that Murray Park graduates will scale even lesser hurdles.
Frank does rate Chris Burke highly, though.
'Rangers still have everything in place to be a very big club - the stadium, the training ground and the fan-base,' said Ronald's twin.
'It is fantastic and I'm very proud to be here. The future should still be bright for this club. …