Rangers at the heart of a new Europe

Phil Gordon suggests the arrival of De Boer shows times are changing
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The Independent Online

Holland may be short of genuine celebrities, but the one group of people they do reserve star status for is footballers. In the Amsterdam branch of Madame Tussaud's, next to Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit, are an engaging couple of whom it is said that if they were made of chocolate they would eat themselves.

Holland may be short of genuine celebrities, but the one group of people they do reserve star status for is footballers. In the Amsterdam branch of Madame Tussaud's, next to Johan Cruyff, Marco van Basten and Ruud Gullit, are an engaging couple of whom it is said that if they were made of chocolate they would eat themselves.

No, not Anthea Turner and Grant Bovey. Ronald and Frank de Boer, though, know how to make a buck. The twins are the driving force behind Team Holland, the marketing vehicle of the Dutch international team which is making Louis van Gaal's players rich men with everything from endorsements to websites. Ronald's decision to say OK to Rangers on Wednesday, may have broken a partnership that has thrived for 13 years together at Ajax and Barcelona, but he is capable of standing on his own two feet.

With 61 caps to his name, Ronald de Boer is one of the best attacking midfielders in the game. That is why Arsÿne Wenger wanted him before that ill-fated move with Frank to the Nou Camp 20 months ago, and that is why Alex Ferguson spent last weekend phoning the Dutchman trying to entice him to Old Trafford.

That Ibrox should turn out to be his destination, then, is somewhat surprising. Even to Dick Advocaat. The Rangers manager confessed on Wed-nesday after securing De Boer's £4.5m transfer, that "players from Barcelona don't go to Glasgow".

That De Boer has - even after initially rejecting Advocaat's advances - says a lot about Rangers' altered image abroad. It was not simply a reaction to that painful 6-2 humiliation by Celtic last Sunday, but De Boer's arrival helped to clear some of the gloom.

Naturally, De Boer spoke to his brother Frank and mentor Van Gaal - whose exit from the Nou Camp in May began his own move to the Barça margins - but they simply concurred with his own thoughts. "I had a better feeling about going to Rangers," said Ronald.

"I spoke to Alex Ferguson and was very proud that he wanted to sign me. He said he wanted to use me in the team, but also that he would be rotating players. He said sometimes you'll sit on the bench, sometimes you'll play, but normally only Beckham and Keane will always be in the team.

"It didn't worry me because I think I have the quality to be a success, but at 30 you want to play all the time. Rangers want to do something in the Champions' League and I want to help them succeed. At Manchester United, it is different. You can only lose there because they have won so much already and the expectation is higher.

"I realise it might take Rangers years to become as strong in Europe as Manchester United, but it is not impossible for Rangers to do the same because my old club, Ajax, showed that it could be done. Rangers want to go to a very high level in Europe and I am willing to help."

Advocaat's stint as Holland's coach in the 1994 World Cup finals cemented a mutual appreciation. "I am going to play for a manager who believes in me and has confidence in me, which is so important. I'm also happy with the fact that he wants to play me behind the strikers, my best position."

One of the reasons De Boer is so highly coveted is his awkward streak. On and off the pitch, he gets what he wants, even going on strike with Frank at Ajax to engineer their move to Barcelona. It was also claimed in the racial row which wrecked the Dutch camp at Euro 96 that the opinionated twins' influence jeopardised opportunities for the squad's black players.

Yet, Advocaat found against Celtic that the leadership he needs on the pitch was absent. The real Ronald de Boer is no dummy, and Advocaat wants him to spread Rangers' fame across the continent.

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