How Linfield are two Europa League wins away from a £4m cash bonanza
Linfield will enter tonight's Europa League tie against FK Sutjeska in Montenegro (7.15pm) knowing the pathway to a potential £4m windfall lies ahead.
Already in Europe this season, the Blues have earned £1m in Uefa prize money - the most ever for an Irish League club - but could make it four times that much if first they prove successful against Sutjeska in the third qualifying round and then emerge victorious at the play-off stage.
Should David Healy's men overcome Montenegro's top club, they would face the losers of the Champions League clash between Apoel Nicosia of Cyprus and Azerbaijan's Qarabag, with a spot in the Europa League group stages at stake.
For clubs who make it to the group stages, they bank £2.69m, with another £525,000 for every win and £175,000 for a draw.
Even if Linfield lost every match, with television revenue, gate receipts and sponsorship they would easily make £3m from the group phase, bringing their total to a whopping £4m for competing in Europe this season.
It is a mighty ask, of course, to triumph in the next two rounds, but imagine what those funds would mean to the Blues and the Irish League as a whole given that no other clubs could compete with that revenue.
If Linfield were to beat Sutjeska and be defeated by Apoel or Qarabag, they would pocket a further £275,000, and that will be the initial aim for the Windsor Park side, who dropped into the Europa League after losing to Rosenborg in the Champions League.
Boss Healy appreciates the finance is massive for the club, but in tonight's first leg in Montenegro, he is only focusing on the football.
"We know it is going to be tough because Sutjeska are a good side, but I want us to express ourselves in the first leg and come back with a positive result to make sure it is game on for the second leg at Windsor next week," said Linfield boss Healy, who celebrated his 40th birthday yesterday and was presented with a surprise cake to mark the occasion.
"The players have been brilliant on this run in Europe, they have taken on board all the information we have given them, put in a lot of effort and played with the right attitude. That's why I feel we can be competitive in this tie."