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It was a summer of great change at Rangers. As Pedro Caixinha prepared to start his first season in charge at Ibrox, there were several ins and outs as the Portuguese tactician built a squad worthy of challenging Celtic's dominance in the Scottish domestic game.

Nine players were signed, ranging from the experience of Graham Dorrans and Bruno Alves and the unknown quantities like Fábio Cardoso and Alfredo Morelos.

Then there was Carlos Peña, the Mexican midfielder who became the club's most expensive signing since Nikica Jelavic in 2010 when he joined from Guadalajara in a £2.7million deal.

It's a relatively modest amount of money but, considering the recent financial history of the club, it was viewed as a significant transfer.

However, in stark contrast to Morelos, who has started life as a Rangers player in exceptional fashion with six goals already, progress has been slow for Peña.

But after his brilliant two-goal performance against St Johnstone on Saturday, he is slowly but surely beginning to justify his price-tag.


Peña joined with a strong reputation on the pitch, but a chequered one off it. After establishing himself as one of the finest box-to-box midfielders in Mexican football during his time at Leon, Peña drew comparisons to Paul Scholes from former Mexico international Pavel Pardo.

“He has good touch and technique and in some ways reminds me of the style of Paul Scholes,” Pardo told the Daily Record back in June.

That was certainly a bold comparison but, while Scholes was always lauded as the consummate professional during his 19-year career at Manchester United, Peña earned a reputation in Mexico as a party-loving womaniser.

Matias Almeyda, his former manager at Guadalajara, said: “He’s an excellent guy, an excellent player, but he obviously had some episodes. I tried my best to help him. I told him I would do it because I loved him.

I’ve seen many players like him who have ended up badly and I don’t want that with Carlos. I don’t want him to waste his best years of football by partying.”

With something of a wayward personality coupled with the fact that he had never played outside of Mexico, Rangers supporters were understandably apprehensive about his chances of thriving at Ibrox.

Then, after barely featuring for the Gers in pre-season, Caixinha was forced to defend his new signing, while admitting that his fitness levels were short of the standard required at the club.

“Carlos is having special training in order for him to get the right rhythm and levels,” Caixinha said after Peña was an unused substitute in the opening game of the season, a 2-1 win at Motherwell.

It was far from a disaster but Peña's Rangers career had got off to an inauspicious start.


Having failed to secure a start in any of Rangers' first six league games, Peña was given a chance to impress in the Old Firm derby against Celtic. It did not end well. The 27-year-old struggled in midfield before being hooked off after 53 minutes.

An alarming lack of fitness did not go unnoticed. Peña was ridiculed on social media and bore the brunt of a withering assessment by outspoken pundit Chris Sutton.

“He was handed a start on Saturday to show what he can do. He’s had long enough to get fit but was miles off it. He can’t run. He can’t move,” Sutton said.

“Whether he was short of fitness or whatever it was a mistake playing him and it was like playing with 10 men in that first half.”

However, Peña is no stranger to criticism and is finally showing flickers of promise, taking a huge step in the right direction with two goals on Friday night.

His first came after peeling away to the back post before lifting a James Tavernier cross into the roof of the net.

His second was even more impressive, glancing an unerring header into the corner to make it 2-0 and effectively seal the points.

Despite the criticism he has justifiably received, Peña has now scored four goals in eight games, having also found the net in the win over Dundee United and the League Cup quarter-final victory at Partick Thistle.

While his overall game still needs some refinement – mainly sharpening up his first touch and continuing to work on his fitness – the midfielder is proving that he can be a genuine goalscoring threat from midfield.

He is a player who can arrive late in the box and get on the end of crosses and add a dimension that has been absent from Rangers in recent seasons. With players who can deliver quality crosses from wide areas, Peña's aerial threat and finishing ability could be key assets for Caixinha's side this season.

The manager hailed Peña's performance and backed him to produce more of the same if he continues to work hard.

“I am pleased for him – I know what type of player we are talking about and I know he still has much more to give. It is a question of him keeping believing in himself, us giving him the confidence and keeping working hard,” he said.

Although there is a long road ahead, Peña's encouraging display against St Johnstone has given him the foundation from which he can build and, ultimately, prove that he was a risk worth taking in the transfer market.

Caixinha has been patient with Peña, somewhat shielding him from the culture shock by easing him into the action but, now, it looks as though the Mexico international is ready to be a regular fixture in the starting line-up.