RODOLFO Arruabarrena’s goal which broke Rangers’ hearts back in 2006 may have been heartily cheered by the Villarreal supporters packed inside El Madrigal.

But it may have raised a smile with some Celtic supporters, too, as their rivals, set to become the first Scottish team to qualify for the quarter-finals of the Champions League, were denied as left-back Arruabarrena side-footed home Diego Forlan’s cutback.

The strike sealed a 1-1 draw on the night and qualification for Villarreal on the away goals rule after an enthralling 2-2 draw at Ibrox in the first leg.

And according to Arruabarrena, that moment also sealed the bonds between the Yellow Submarine and those of a green and white persuasion, with supporters of the two sides having forged a relationship during their UEFA Cup tie in 2004 – one that continues to this day – and one that Arruaberrena was absolutely delighted to have helped strengthen.

“It aided the friendship of Villarreal with Celtic and made it special,” says Arruabarrena. “It was a very difficult match, the result shows it,” the Argentine recalls of the second leg in Spain in which Peter Lovenkrands had pounced early on after a defensive error to put Rangers ahead.

“We had played a good game [at Ibrox] but not the second game. It was harder fought and they put themselves in the advantage.”

Arruabarrena played at Villarreal for seven years but was never renowned as a goalscorer – what he became though in that Champions League run which took the club to the semi-finals was a scorer of very important goals, with the defender also heading home the winner for against Inter Milan in the last eight.

“The truth is that it was need that took me into the area against Rangers,” adds Arruabarrena. “And luckily I could convert that goal that gave us qualification.”

Managed by Manuel Pellegrini, later to go on and lift the Premier League title with Manchester City, Villarreal’s incredible Champions League run in 2006 came to a heart-breaking end in the semis. Down 1-0 on aggregate through current Celtic coach Kolo Toure’s first-leg goal for Arsenal at Highbury, Villarreal were handed a last-minute lifeline at El Madrigal when they were awarded a penalty. However, Juan Roman Riquelme saw his spot-kick saved by Jens Lehmann and the Gunners went on to contest the showpiece final against Barcelona. It was the cruellest of conclusions for Villarreal, who had peppered the Arsenal goal in search of a leveller, with Forlan also having a goal disallowed for offside.

“If before we started [the tournament began] they had told us that we were going to reach the semi-finals, we would have signed up,” admits Arruabarrena.

“Maybe after seeing the game with Arsenal we felt we could have reached that final.”

Villarreal’s European ambitions are less lofty nowadays. They reached the semi-finals of the Europa League in 2015/16 – the third time in less than 15 years – and this season they top Group G, a point ahead of Rangers in third.

They come into tonight's Ibrox clash on the back of a much-needed 2-1 win over Real Betis at the weekend, though, which lifted them to 16th place in the table.

Arruabarrena, however, who nowadays manages Shabab Al Ahli Dubai in the Arabian Gulf League, insists the current crop at Villarreal have potential. He believes performances have been better under manager Javier Calleja – a former Villarreal team-mate of his – than results have shown and they will right themselves once the side find their shooting boots.

“Although the results in the league are not good, the team has shown good moments,” the Buenos Aires-born 43-year-old insists.

“They do not score many goals – they only need to [start] converting.”

Arruabarrena received six caps for Argentina, one of which was against England at Wembley in a 0-0 draw where he found himself up against David Beckham.

But it will be one of Backham's English team-mates from that generation that Villarreal will be looking to get the better of tonight. Rangers manager Steven Gerrard’s first steps into management at Ibrox have impressed Arruabarrena, who won the Primera Division and Copa Argentina during a two-year stint in charge of Boca Juniors between 2014 and 2016.

The manner in which Rangers came from behind twice in September against Villarreal to earn a point under Gerrard was most definitely noted in Spain.

Very well,” says Arruabarrena, when asked how he feels Gerrard has done as a manager so far. “[Not just] the results but how he plays his team. You can see he is [doing] a very good job, but we hope Villarreall can get a result.”

There may even be one or two in Glasgow who share that hope.