When Pedro Caixinha made great changes to the Rangers squad this summer, few incoming players provoked as much excitement amongst the Ibrox support than Carlos Pena.
A Mexican international and in his prime at 27 years of age, he was the kind of signing that fans had been hoping to see on their promotion to the Scottish Premiership.
With the club reportedly spending £2.7m on him, it also hearkened back to more successful days when the Ibrox side could attract serious quality to Glasgow.
However, his signing is rapidly turning from excitement into concern after a number of faltering performances that have left fans wondering if he’ll ever have what it takes to live up to his billing and establish himself as a top Scottish Premiership talent.
Caixinha offered a fierce defence of his midfielder this weekend, claiming that he is overly criticised for fitness issues and performances because he isn’t Scottish.
While it is understandable that the Rangers boss would want to defend his player publicly, his comments betray a simple truth; Pena isn’t getting the job done so far and he has a lot to prove to Rangers fans.
The midfielder has attracted attention regarding fitness issues for a very simple reason and it has nothing to do with his nationality but the fact it took him until the middle of September to even be ready to start a match.
Pena signed for Rangers on 22nd June but didn’t make his first start for almost three months, that’s reason enough to question his ability to get himself ready for first-team football at the club.
While bedding in periods are natural, for high-profile, big money signings, there are minimum expectations.
He’s now made seven appearances and started Rangers’ last three matches, so excuses regarding match fitness and adjustment are increasingly wearing thin, especially as his performances are not actually getting any better.
Those performances are the key reason why there is so much speculation and discussion around him right now. Fitness issues aside he has appeared out of sync with his Rangers teammates and completely off the pace, mentally and physically, when it comes to the hustle and bustle that defines midfield battles in the Scottish top-flight.
Against Hamilton on Friday night he showed ill-discipline, a lack of motivation and a failure to even do the basics of the game right, often unable to retain possession.
Against Celtic last weekend he was tasked with shadowing Scott Brown but, aside from a brief five to ten minute spell in the first half, failed to get close to the Hoops captain.
In both of these matches he has been hauled off before the hour mark, so while Pedro Caixinha defends him publicly, it’s become clear the Portuguese has his own concerns about his ability to assert himself on the opposition.
Perhaps the only positive so far in his performances has been his positioning and desire to get into goalscoring positions, something that could prove fruitful in time.
Despite everything that’s happened so far, there may still be hope about his future at Rangers, especially when you consider the player’s past.
The Mexican has won 19 caps for his national team and he’s a two-time title winner in his homeland, once commanding a transfer fee approaching £6m.
Pedro Caixinha knows that only too well, as manager of Santos Laguna he witnessed the midfielder as opposition when he was at the peak of his powers in 2013/14, a season he scored 12 goals in 38 league matches for Leon.
The worry for fans is that his best days are behind him and he’s a busted flush, the hope being that Caixinha has so much faith in his ability that in persevering, the Rangers boss will make a breakthrough and tap into that kind of form.
Regardless, only Pena himself can truly control what happens next.
First of all he needs to show he at least has the desire and passion to play for the club and their supporters, but with the patience of the Rangers fans already close to breaking point, something needs to change soon with or without him.