Ask Rangers fans of a certain vintage what is the best individual performance they’ve seen from an opposition player at Ibrox and plenty of them will mention Spanish footballing legend Gaizka Mendieta’s trip to Glasgow in 1999.
Alongside Juan Roman Riquelme – who blew Ibrox away during a trip to play the Gers with Villarreal in the mid-2000s – Mendieta is a player whose trip to the famous ground is the stuff of folklore.
Both naturally have similarities in that they didn’t play – at Ibrox at least – with some of Europe’s biggest clubs but had talents which could’ve caught the eye on any pitch on Planet Football.
Mendieta – a talented attacking midfielder with 40 Spain caps and a nostalgia factor that reaches near Batigol levels – travelled to Ibrox to play the Gers with Los Murciélagos in 1999.
A famous Champions League battle would ensue with Mendieta stealing the show, opening the scoring, and setting the Spaniards on their way to a 2-1 victory.
Asked recently about his favourite destination in the Champions League, Mendieta – quick as a flash – mentioned the trip to Glasgow as the visit which stands out the most in his memory.
“It might not be the place where a lot of people think of, but Glasgow [is my most memorable Champions League trip],” said Mendieta [JOE].
“We played against Rangers in the first year with Valencia, you could hear the sound of the crowd, the people in the stadium, from the dressing room.”
This was a Valencia side who’d make the Champions League Final that season – boasting an array of Spanish, European, and Argentinian talent – and Mendieta was the star.
They’d visit Hapoel Haifa, PSV, Bayern Munich, Bordeaux, Manchester United, Fiorentina, Lazio, and Barcelona – in that campaign alone.
Valencia would fall at the Final hurdle to Real Madrid in a 3-0 humbling in the Stade de France, but undeterred they’d reach the same stage only a year later.
This time they’d lose again, narrowly being defeated by Bayern Munich on penalties after a 1-1 draw in the San Siro. Mendieta scored.
For Ibrox to stand out to Mendieta given these two immense Champions League runs, it says a lot about the ground and about the passion of the support.
Mendieta would leave Valencia in 2001, moving to Lazio in a reported £29m deal before struggling to settle in Italy, returning to Barcelona before finishing his career with, ehm, Middlesbrough.
Meanwhile, a former teammate of Rangers boss has branded the ex-Liverpool star a “freak of nature” and put him in the same bracket as a £47m Real Madrid legend.