When Carlos Pena became the most expensive Rangers player in seven years, he was always likely to be the subject of criticism if he did not hit the ground running in Scottish football.
And, surprise surprise, a couple of worryingly ineffective performances, in particular in his Old Firm debut against Celtic in October, had plenty of supporters wondering if they’d bought a dud for the hefty price of £2.5 million, as reported by the Daily Record.
But since Pedro Caixinha was sacked over a month ago and replaced at the helm by interim boss Graeme Murty, there has been a marked improvement in Pena’s game.
The Mexican international has thrived at times at the tip of a midfield diamond, finding pockets of space behind opposition shields and providing a goal threat from the centre of the park that Rangers were completely lacking last season.
So far, Pena has five goals in 11 appearances for Rangers, an average of nearly one in two which makes something of a mockery of the constant scorn that has come his way this season from both fans and pundits.
And to make Pena’s tally even more impressive, it is worth pointing out that no midfielder in Rangers’ squad scored more than five goals in 2016/17. Andy Halliday five strikes came in 42 games, 31 more than it has taken Pena to reach the same tally.
Therefore, although he still has room to improve and there’s a sense that he still needs to adapt to the pace of the Scottish game, that statistic alone is enough to explain why Rangers were willing to pay such an unprecedented sum for his services.