ONLY Jon Dahl Tomasson will know if his answer was an attempt at mind games, a wind-up or an effort to shift the pressure from his shoulders to those of Steven Gerrard.

Whatever his reasons for the few words that quickly went viral online on Monday evening, there was more than a degree of truth behind Tomasson’s message.

Just 24 hours later, the Dane would deny Rangers the very prize up for discussion as Malmo eliminated Gerrard’s side from the third qualifying round on a dramatic, damaging night at Ibrox.

“Don’t you think that they need the Champions League’s money here? I think so,” was Tomasson’s reply when asked if there was more pressure on Rangers or his side given the status of the tie after the first leg in Sweden. “I think they need that.

“I think that’s a good answer, isn’t it? I think you all are clever lads so you understand it.”

Tomasson will have been well aware, of course, that Malmo could also do with a large UEFA-branded cheque being delivered this season. For clubs at the level of the Allsvenskan champions and their Premiership peers, the Champions League is all about the money.

Given that the Malmo tie was Rangers’ first at this level after a decade away, and that it came on the back of the historic 55th title success, the fixtures carried extra emotional significance for the fans that watched from afar last Tuesday and then took their seats at a sold-out Ibrox seven days later.

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It will be for Gerrard, his staff and his players to analyse and assess the catalogue of errors that proved so catastrophically costly for Rangers across both ties.

But the issues that the Ibrox board now face are far more serious after the champions missed out on a £30million bounty that would have been transformative on and off the park. This is where Tomasson’s message hits home.

The Light Blues hierarchy only need to look across the city to see the impact that missing out on Champions League football can have. Quite simply, it is not sustainable to run a model that relies on European income and then fail to deliver when it matters most.

The pattern at Parkhead has been a familiar one. If the Champions League money doesn’t land, then a key man must be sold to make up the financial shortfall.

Accounts for RIFC plc to June 30 last year showed a £15.9million loss and a requirement for a further £23.3million of funding before the end of the current campaign. Those figures, of course, do not factor in the full cost of the damage wreaked by Covid-19 and a season of diminished European prize money and an empty Ibrox.

The absence of fans was calculated at around £10million and there is now huge pressure on Gerrard to ensure his side parachute into the Europa League and limit the financial hit that has come just as Rangers were looking to establish themselves on the back of 55.

Had Rangers been able to progress to the group stages this term, they would have had a stronger hand to play in fending off interest in Gerrard’s most valuable assets, and perhaps a trump card up their sleeve in terms of convincing certain players to extend their stay for another season.

Both situations are now outwith Rangers’ control. It is surely inevitable that a key player, or perhaps more than one, will be sold off as a result of their failure on Tuesday night.

Glen Kamara remains the most likely departure as he continues to attract interest from the Premier League and now is the time to cash in on the Finland internationalist.

The problem that Rangers face is that clubs know they need the money to help balance the books, especially given that the investors inside and outside of the boardroom must be nearing their limits of what they are willing to put in to offset significant losses.

Rangers may have their prices in mind, but Kamara - or Alfredo Morelos, Ryan Kent or Ianis Hagi - is only worth what someone is willing to pay. From a position of dominance in May, Rangers now find themselves in one of relative weakness.

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Talks with Kamara over an extension to his Ibrox contract have been protracted, as have those between Connor Goldson’s representatives and sporting director Ross Wilson.

Both have had long enough to put pen-to-paper. If they don’t sign on, then they must be shipped out this summer so that Rangers can maximise their return.

Fans will not be slow in turning on players who they feel are not giving their all for whatever reason and the reaction on Tuesday night shows that the achievements of last term won’t keep credit in the bank if this malaise continues.

Rangers have spoken for long enough about the importance of a player trading model. It has been addressed by Wilson and was labelled as the ‘fourth pillar’ of Rangers by John Bennett, the deputy chairman, at the AGM last December but it is a plan that has yet to be put into practice and the success of it will now shape the short-term future.

Timing is everything in the transfer market. By blowing their big chance in Europe, Rangers have taken themselves out of the driving seat and the need to sell an asset is through necessity rather than wish.

With that requirement to balance the books, a smaller percentage of transfer fees can be given back to Gerrard to reinvest in the squad and the Ibrox boss finds himself at a crossroads in terms of the progression of his side.

Given that the Premiership winners this term will qualify straight into the Champions League next season, the coming months carry huge pressure and the ramifications are significant for both sides of the Old Firm.

Whatever Rangers do in the market, it will be a gamble. As they count the cost and decide on their next move, they do so knowing they are the only ones to blame and that Tomasson was right all along.