It is not what you spend, it is how you spend it. The phrase has become somewhat synonymous with Rangers in recent years, and it is once again perfectly suited to this summer.

The faces and the names may have changed but the predicament is a familiar one at Ibrox. This will be another close season where the narrative is around a rebuild, a regroup or a refresh. Where Giovanni van Bronckhorst and, more specifically, Michael Beale failed, Philippe Clement must succeed. The margin for error, in both football and financial terms, has disappeared.

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Five players have left Ibrox already at the end of their deals. That in itself speaks to poor squad management and missed opportunities. In time, the departures will rise into double figures and will be followed by a net spend as John Bennett and his board commit to backing their boss in the transfer market.

That has not been an issue in recent times. The Ibrox hierarchy are often accused of not splashing the cash when it was required. If anything, it has been their willingness to dig deep and find ways and means that has been to their detriment at times and Bennett has made it clear that the transfer strike rate must improve.

“I have talked previously of the four components of financial sustainability: season ticket sales, commercial revenue, European football and player trading,” Bennett wrote in his chairman’s report in the accounts to year end June 30, 2023. “While the first of these components will never be taken for granted, it is the fourth that requires attention.

Rangers Review: John Bennett

“Player trading will always be inherently volatile, yet Rangers must replace sporadic ‘wins’ with systematic success. It is a given that it all begins with player recruitment. This is an area of priority for your Board, and we anticipate that the coming months will see a strengthening in the leadership and processes of our football department, specifically with this in mind.”

In the weeks that followed, Nils Koppen was appointed as director of football recruitment. The winter window was Koppen's first chance to impress but it will be the work he does over the summer that will see opinions formed amongst the support. To say there is room for improvement after the Ross Wilson era would be an understatement.

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The remits that Mark Allen, the director of football, and then Wilson operated with were wide-ranging and all-encompassing at Ibrox and Auchenhowie. The portfolio that Koppen has been handed focuses solely on player identification and recruitment. He will not need to concern himself with the running of the academy or the Women’s set-up or get involved in the minutiae of sports science or food provision. His KPIs are specific to player identification. His background, his strengths and his remit are to sign players to make Rangers successful and make Rangers money.

"I am delighted to be joining such a prestigious club like Rangers in what is a crucial role for the club’s forward strategy," Koppen said upon his appointment. “The Chairman and CEO have both been clear in recent times our player trading model has to function better and on a more regular basis. I look forward to working with the scouting team already here at the club to ensure we reach our goals in the coming years.”

Rangers are expanding their search and casting the net wider. Markets of interest now include the likes of Ecuador and Colombia, as well as leagues in the Far East and others outside the big five in Europe. A track record at PSV Eindhoven was crucial to Koppen emerging as the prime candidate from a list of around ten names and he is at the forefront of a data-driven approach to recruitment. 

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In January, Rangers committed £4.5million to the signing of Mohamed Diomande. A loan fee was paid to Wolves for Fabio Silva as Rangers added another hefty wage to a total bill that has crept up and up over the last few years.

Had circumstances in Cyprus worked out differently, Jefte, the Brazilian full-back, would have joined Clement’s side six months before he finally put pen to paper in Glasgow. Oscar Cortes was also recruited, and another transfer fee must now be budgeted for next summer when his loan switch from RC Lens is converted into a permanent transfer.

Rangers are still paying the price for the mistakes of last summer. Lessons have been learned in the year since and Clement will not be given the freedom that Beale was when it comes to recruitment as players the Englishman had previously worked with formed a large part of the strategy. The squad that was inherited in October was not suited to Clement's style and was a mix-and-match of several ideas and methodologies. Clearing up that mess will not be straightforward.

Clement sits on the football board that ensures responsibility is shared when it comes to key decisions on player contracts or signings and that collaborative approach must pay dividends, both in terms of trophies and on the balance sheet. His voice will be the dominant one in any discussions but he does not hold the combination to the safe in his hands alone.

Like any boss, Beale knew he would live or die on his recruitment. There are notable deals in there, especially in Jack Butland, Dujon Sterling and Abdallah Sima. The likes of Kieran Dowell and Jose Cifuentes are black marks on the record, while Sam Lammers stands as the biggest failure of last summer. There is interest from Europe in Lammers, while Cyriel Dessers will also attract potential suitors after scoring 22 goals last term.

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Beale was not handed a blank chequebook, but he was entrusted with the recruitment drive as the board and James Bisgrove, then the chief executive officer, believed that Beale would deliver on his words. The plan focused heavily on middle to front despite a feeling at large that defensive reinforcements were required. When the reality of the situation hit home, Beale had to be sacked as his new-look side faltered domestically.

By that time, the fears over what had been spent and who had been brought in were very real for supporters. The directors and investors must have had their own concerns too, but it is not their place to tell a manager how to spend his budget or who to sign. Managers cannot have signings foisted upon them, and neither can they have a player sold from under their feet.

The hierarchy did their bit by finding the cash and had to trust their man to use it wisely. That will be the case for Clement but there will be more checks and balances in the new structure and there must be a greater focus on the medical department given the significant wastage through injuries over the tenures of Van Bronckhorst, Beale and Clement.

Rangers Review: PA

Everything is on the table at Ibrox. Bennett oversaw sweeping changes at executive level 12 months ago and Rangers must now be as ruthless when it comes to the dressing room. Every player has his price, and no player should be assured of his place after another season of failure in the Premiership.

The task of assembling a squad to win silverware in a single window is not an impossible one, but it does come with considerable risks and challenges. Before Clement can build a team in his name and his image, he must remove those who his predecessors had faith in but are now surplus to requirements. The incomings will always be the most important ones, but the outgoings will shape what Clement and Koppen are able to achieve.

The departure of Bisgrove to Saudi Arabia will have little impact on the delivery of the transfer window. Bennett has the title of executive chairman to support his more hands-on role at Ibrox and the focus in the corridors of power is on ensuring that Rangers execute their blueprint on time, on budget and on point.

Bennett spoke at the AGM last year about the £10.5million loss, recorded before player trading, that had to ‘go away’. The ambition, the requirement, is for Rangers to break even, or better, before a player transaction is completed. If that is achieved, then the fourth pillar, as Bennett calls it, will have solid foundations.

Rangers will spend again this summer. Quite simply, they have no option but to spend again this summer. If the same mistakes are made, the outcomes will be all too familiar in the boardroom and the dugout.