Dodds puts strong case as Rangers fail to sign big names

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The Independent Football

In a week in which the Rangers chairman, David Murray, was driven to desperation by the financial demands of potential signings, Billy Dodds delivered a timely reminder to the club that he is one striker for whom the word "net" has only one connotation.

In a week in which the Rangers chairman, David Murray, was driven to desperation by the financial demands of potential signings, Billy Dodds delivered a timely reminder to the club that he is one striker for whom the word "net" has only one connotation.

Dodds' late double strike against the Lithuanian side Zalgiris Kaunas on Wednesday almost certainly pushed Rangers a step closer to their Champions' League objective, but it also underlined that perhaps the Rangers manager, Dick Advocaat, would be better investing a bit more faith in the Scotland player than his actions, and the club's obsession with big spending, seems to indicate.

Murray announced after the 4-1 second qualifying round first leg victory that he had given up the quest to sign Emile Mpenza, one of Belgium's few successes in Euro 2000, after he had made Schalke 04, Mpenza's club, an increased offer of £8m, the latest twist in a month-long saga.

"I am not prepared to go any higher, there is nothing more we can do," Murray insisted, and also revealed that a £12m bid to Juventus for Darko Kovacevic had fallen through after the Yugoslav striker demanded a £2m annual salary after tax. "We had agreed a fee with Juventus," said Murray, "but the player wanted £34,000 a week net and that would have shattered our wage structure. We are not prepared to do that."

Signing a big-name striker has been Advocaat's main objective since last season, when he revealed that he had gone back to his old club, PSV Eindhoven, and asked Ruud van Nistelrooy to come to Ibrox. The Dutchman, who had Manchester United waiting in the wings at the time, told his countryman he was not prepared to drop down into Scottish football.

Yet, even though Dodds still represents Rangers' best chance of scoring - his two against the Lithuanians took his total to 17 since joining from Dundee United last December for just £1.3m - he began the match, not for the first time, on the bench. If Advocaat has an inverted snobbery towards Dodds because of the player's paltry purchase price, he would do well to rid himself of it. Only when Dodds replaced the anonymous Jonatan Johansson did the crude Zalgiris defence - who had two men sent off - get a rough ride. "It was a poor performance," said an irritated Advocaat. "Even when they were down to nine men, we did not look sharp."

Advocaat should have the injured Dutch striker Michael Mols back from his 10-month cruciate ligament absence by the time the Champions' League group stages begin in September, though another hurdle in the Danish champions Herfloge still lie in wait after the Zalgiris second leg match.

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