Carlos Carvalhal knows clubs like SC Braga and Rangers shouldn’t be getting to the last four of the Europa League.
With the global game now a cash cow for the biggest, richest clubs on the continent, it’s not geared towards sides from Portugal and Scotland lifting trophies.
But Carvalhal insists their progress to the quarter-finals this season isn’t just good for football. He says it’s good for SOCIETY.
He’s holding up Braga and Rangers as shining examples of what can be achieved when the odds are stacked against you.
Irrespective of budgets, wages or the league they’re in, Carvalhal claims the two clubs have punched above their weight.
He’s adamant they’re doing it for the underdog – whether that’s in sport or in life itself.
On Thursday night, the former Sheffield Wednesday and Swansea City coach will welcome Gio van Bronckhorst’s side to the Municipal Stadium for a mouth-watering quarter-final first leg.
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And no matter who eventually reaches the semis, Carvalhal says Braga and Rangers have sent out a vital message with their displays in Europe this season.
While the Ibrox club have already seen off tournament favorites Borussia Dortmund, Carvalhal’s men knocked out French cracks Monaco in the last round.
And as he geared up for Rangers’ visit in midweek, he told MailSport : “It’s important having clubs like Braga and Rangers at this stage in European competition.
“Football can be important for society as well.
“We are showing that with less resources and less money, if you act properly, have quality and show a collective spirit, you can beat the power teams.
“I think we’re a great example to society, especially people who are maybe poor and don’t have too many opportunities.
“It shows them that if they fight and work, you can really achieve something special even in normal life. Braga and Rangers are giving hope to these people. That’s what football can do for society.
“What both clubs are achieving is very important with less resources and less money than the others.
“Despite all of that, we’re both acting like teams who can beat anyone.
“And, certainly at Braga, we have that belief all the time.”
That’s something Rangers couldn’t have done without as they beat Dortmund in the play-off round before knocking out Red Star.
Carvalhal has been hugely impressed by van Bronckhorst’s side so far in the competition and will watch them in person at today’s Old Firm derby.
The Portuguese coach will no doubt be blown away by the Ibrox atmosphere this afternoon.
But it won’t take him by total surprise after seeing their support at close quarters during a pre-season friendly five years ago when he was Hillsborough boss.
Thousands of Gers fans were in Sheffield for a 2-0 win and that showed Carvalhal the size of the club.
He said: “I don’t know everything about the Rangers team yet but I’ll travel to Glasgow for the Celtic game. It’s my first time at this derby and I’m very excited about it.
“During my travel I’ll start checking individual players and the collective.
“I know they line up with a four at the back, two midfielders, then three players behind the centre-forward in attack, with Ryan Kent on the left.
“So I know some things but after the Old Firm derby I’ll be sure.
“What Rangers have done is fantastic this season. They’re still fighting for the title and have this important game against Celtic.
“And in the Europa League they have been amazing. But I already know Rangers as a club and how big they are.
“If I had any doubts about that, I realized it when we had the friendly game at Hillsborough.
“There were so many fans in Sheffield that day and it was a really good match.
“For a friendly, it was absolutely incredible. That day was everything I like about UK football.”
One day Carvalhal might return to British football, with his current Braga contract due to expire at the end of this campaign. Rangers were keen on him becoming Ibrox boss back in 2015 and the 56-year-old has proven himself as a top coach in four different countries.
At Braga he has exceeded expectations – winning the Portuguese Cup and finishing runner-up in the League Cup.
Their Europa League run this term has enhanced Carvalhal’s managerial reputation even further.
He faces a huge challenge against Rangers in the last eight but says a semi-final spot is there to grasp.
Carvalhal said: “Last year at Braga we were a more experienced team with more options.
“We fought for three cups, winning the Portuguese Cup and competing in the Europa League.
“We also did well in the championship. In February we were second and eventually finished fourth.
“Because the season was so good, my president sold all of our best players, like Paulinho to Sporting, Galeno to Porto and Fransergio to Bordeaux. So we put the academy boys into the squad. One of them was just 15 years old, others were 17 and 18.
“Since I arrived, I’ve put 13 young players into the first team in just two seasons.
“This season we’re in the last four of the Europa League with a tie against Rangers.
“I don’t think any of us are favorites to go through.
“I said before our tie with Monaco that they had the best squad after PSG in France with very good players.
“We understood they had better quality players. But because of what we have as a team at Braga, I said it was a 50/50 tie.
“And I’m going to say that about the Rangers tie as well.
“Both clubs have been incredible in getting to this stage but I just feel we have something with us.
“We’re the youngest team in the competition, which is great.
“We attack more and shoot more than anyone else in the Europa League. I’m really happy about that.”