Giovanni van Bronckhorst accepted the facts speak for themselves as Rangers brought the curtain down on an ill-fated Champions League campaign by losing their sixth successive group stage match against Ajax on Tuesday night.
The Ibrox side replaced Croatian outfit Dinamo Zagreb as the worst-ever team in the history of the competition stretching all the way back to 1992/93 with a goal difference of minus 20 after suffering a 3-1 defeat to the Dutch champions.
Van Bronckhorst offered an honest assessment as he detailed the reasons behind his team’s struggle on their long-awaited return to European football’s elite stage.
The Dutchman believes the experience will act as a massive learning curve for his players as he immediately set his sights on qualifcation again and an improved showing next season.
He admitted: “It’s disappointing. We’ve had a lot of disappointing experiences in Europe with a lot of big losses. It started really well with those big wins against Union (Saint-Gilloise) and PSV (Eindhoven) to qualify for the Champions League. But after playing these six games you can see the difference in levels with the teams we competed against.
“It was very difficult for us to get results. It’s always difficult because you know the gap is there but you don’t want to concede as many goals as we have. Against teams of the highest quality we have struggled in those moments. It’s a big learning experience for us.
“I have competed in this competition, I have won this competition so I know the other side. Now I face the other side with a team that is not on the same level yet. We have seen that against Liverpool, Napoli and Ajax. Teams who have been operating at this level for years, teams who have been to the final and won the final.
“That has been hard for us. We were all happy to reach the Champions League because we hadn’t been at this stage for 12 years, but the other side of that is you are facing so many good teams and that has to be the learning point for us. Of course we want to be involved again next year, but this season has been hard and we have to do better than we did.”
Van Bronckhorst dismissed suggestions Rangers should have spent more money on signing a higher calibre of player this summer to enable the club to be more competitive in the Champions League as he claimed the financial windfall from reaching the group stage was never as large as initially rumoured.
The 47-year-old also reckons Ajax benefited from additional support provided to them by the Dutch Football Association after the Eredivisie champions were afforded a free weekend to miss domestic action in preparation of the trip to Glasgow. Van Bronckhorst questioned why the SPFL couldn’t do likewise to help his threadbare squad.
He added: “We tried to press but you saw the differnece in energy levels. They had six days off and were much fresher than we were. Their league is thinking about the players. We, of course, played a game at the weekend and had some injuries. The level we faced has been there for everyone to see. We could cope in parts of games but not for 90 minutes. These are facts and I cannot change the facts.
“I know the club will do everything to try to build the strongest squad we have. I have read many stories that we struck gold with so many millions coming in. It’s not true... all the figures. We don’t have that budget to spend.
“So that’s another thing we saw at the beginning - that (because) we play Champions League so now we have £40million extra. Not true. It creates an expectation that we can buy new players. The way we bought the players this season was to quality for the Champions League, but I don’t think the club will spend millions and millions if the money isn’t there.”