Winger Jonny Hayes reckons it would take £20 million of investment for Aberdeen to close the gap on Celtic.
The Dons may now be debt free but PFA Scotland Player of the Year nominee Hayes accepts that level of cash injection in the squad is impossible at Pittodrie.
The 29-year-old was the only player to break Celtic’s dominance of the Player of the Year short-list.
Celtic trio Stuart Armstrong, Moussa Dembele and Scott Sinclair are also up for the award, with the winner announced in Glasgow on Sunday.
With four Premiership games remaining Aberdeen can still break their own non-Old Firm league record of 75 points.
However, they remain 27 points behind six-in-a-row champions Celtic.
Hayes said: “What will it take to close the gap? About £20m I would say.
“We know the calibre of players Celtic have.
“Given they also have young players such as Armstrong and Dembele, if they improve again it’s going to be a difficult ask. But we can’t do a lot about that.
“Over the course of a season we play them four, five or six times and we can affect those games.
“We can’t affect other games, so we need to fight our own battles.
“It is going to be tougher again next season – Rangers will invest, so too will Hearts in their new manager’s first full season.
“Hibs are coming up and they’re pretty good and will definitely improve the league.
“Our manager has risen to the challenge over the last few seasons by signing better players and getting even more every week out of the guys he already has at the club.
“The points tally at the end of this season probably won’t reflect our improvement but our manager has stressed we must finish as strongly as possible.
“If we finish second this time it will be a definite improvement on the last few years.
“If we continue the natural progression, we know that it is within us to go on and finish second next season and get closer to Celtic.
“However, if they produce similar form to this season it’s going to be hard to catch them again.”
Hayes has been nominated for the PFA Scotland Player of the Year award for a second successive season.
“It is nice to get a bit of recognition from my fellow pros,” he said.
“I take a bit of pride in the nomination. It will be a tough ask to get the award with some of the Celtic players from a team that has done really well this year.”