Allan McGregor: What now for veteran Rangers keeper after Seville heartbreak?
As the Ramon Sanchez-Pizjuan clock ticked towards the 120th minute, thoughts turned to a perfect storybook ending.
Was 40-year-old Allan McGregor, with almost two decades worth of service at Rangers, about to become the shootout hero for his boyhood club in what could be his last game?
With the veteran goalkeeper’s contract due to expire at the end of this month, it would have been the ultimate way to sign off on a glittering career.
Instead, it was a crushing blow for McGregor, his team-mates and the thousands in blue in attendance as Eintracht Frankfurt broke Rangers hearts to dramatically claim the Europa League trophy.
With Saturday’s season finale looming against Hearts in the Scottish Cup final, a game the former Scotland international is doubtful to feature in, he now has a big decision to make on his future – as does manager Giovanni van Bronckhorst.
“Allan’s done fantastic for Rangers,” former team-mate and ex-Ibrox goalkeeper Neil Alexander told BBC Sportsound. “In this European run he’s been outstanding.
“It would be no disgrace to hang up the gloves on the back of the last two seasons. He’s been a true, proper legend – and he would be bowing out at the top.”
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‘Why not have one more year?’
In the build-up to Wednesday’s final, Van Bronckhorst was keen to park contract chat until the end of the season, while Rangers sporting director Ross Wilson gave little away when quizzed on the future of McGregor.
Connor Goldson and Steven Davis, whose current deals end in less than a fortnight, have yet to pen extensions along with the former Scotland keeper, who earned 42 caps across an 11-year international career.
“I think that’s a question for those guys,” Wilson told Sky Sports. “Obviously there are some contracts expiring and people will have their own decisions to make on their futures as well.
“What I do know is this group of players are a united bunch. It’s a brilliant week to be a Rangers player and to be part of the club.”
Ex-Rangers right-back Allan Hutton is in no doubt his former team-mate could continue for at least another season.
McGregor has suffered criticism for a handful of mistakes as Rangers fell short in their attempt to retain the Premiership title, but Hutton believes the standards the keeper has set for himself has magnified these rare errors.
“If he ever falls from that level, he’s under the microscope,” he told Football Insider. “That’s because he plays so well week in, week out. This is a guy who’s built for the big games, built for the big moments.
“Why not have one more year? I believe he could still play on. I want to see him play on but ultimately it’s going to be down to him.”
McGregor saves best for Europe
Since McGregor’s return to Ibrox in 2018, his inspiring form has been integral to Rangers’ domestic and European success.
Last season, he was part of a title-winning backline that conceded a record-breaking 13 goals throughout the 38-game Premiership season.
However, domestic form took a dip this term. On average, McGregor conceded every 243 minutes in the league last campaign – that has been slashed down to 104 this season.
The former Hull City player’s save percentage also dropped – from 85% to 66% – with 15 Premiership keepers boasting a better record.
The veteran stopper has reserved his top form for Europe, though, proving he is still more than capable at the top level.
McGregor’s Europa League save percentage almost doubled this season – from 40% to 73% – while his minutes-per-goal-concession average rose from 54 to 88.
Considering nine of McGregor’s 15 European games this term were in the knockout stage against high-calibre opposition, those are very encouraging numbers for a keeper of any age.
Saturday’s final against Hearts will present Rangers with the chance to end the season, and perhaps McGregor’s career, with silverware. The question, though, is whether the 40-year-old will feature.
Back-up keeper Jon McLaughlin has been Van Bronckhorst’s go-to man in the competition, starting all four of Rangers’ ties, including the semi-final victory of rivals Celtic in April, keeping three clean sheets while letting one goal past him.
Ex-Rangers forward Rory Loy believes McLaughlin will “keep his place” at Hampden, as does Alexander, but if it is to be McGregor’s final game – might that alter the Dutchman’s decision?
“I think Jon will play Saturday, he deserves to,” Alexander said. “But if it was going to be Allan’s last game, would that sway Van Bronckhorst enough to start him? I don’t know.
“What I do know is he will be absolutely be gutted after Wednesday. I don’t where his head will be to be honest.”
‘His emotion on Wednesday tells the story’ – analysis
Former Rangers goalkeeper Cammy Bell on BBC Sportsound
I spoke to Allan during the week, he never gives anything away. He looked absolutely devastated at full-time.
That probably tells the story of what might happen over the next few days. He looked really emotional and that’s why I think this will be his last season.
Former Rangers goalkeeper Neil Alexander on BBC Sportsound
Allan has kept his cards very close to his chest. I thought if Rangers won the Europa League he would have played on for another year.
The thought of playing in the Champions League group stage would have given him enough to keep going.