Rangers have sealed a £2.5million move for Chivas Guadalajara midfielder Carlos Pena on a three-year deal.
Having flown over from Mexico to Scotland at the start of the month to agree terms and pass a medical at the club, Pena returned to his homeland to await the confirmation needed to complete the switch.
That has now arrived via the UK Border Agency and the work permit issued, with Pena already teaming up with the rest of the squad and boss Pedro Caixinha for pre-season training.
The 27-year-old, capped 19 times for Mexico, comes with the reputation of being a box-to-box midfield player, not shy to get himself in the box on many occasions during the 90 minutes and get himself on the scoresheet.
He is constantly trying to find space giving defenders not one moment of peace as they continually have to keep tabs on the man they call ‘Gullit’. He also likes to party – but we don’t hold any judgement here.
Born in the north-eastern state of Tamaulipas in its capital Ciudad Victoria, Pena has played all of his professional career in his homeland of Mexico. Starting out in the youth academy ranks at CF Pachuca, Pena progressed to the first team in 2010 and after 21 appearance in that season, a loan move to second-tier side Club Leon was sanctioned.
Pena would go on to form the most successful years of his career to date at the club, across two loan spells and a permanent stay. In his first loan spell, he spent two seasons at the club, making a total of 55 appearances with ten goals to boot. He won the 2012 Clausura – a mini-league and round robin for the second-half of a season – as Leon were promoted to the top-flight.
Pena was called up for his national side and played his first game for Mexico in a 2-0 World Cup qualifying win over El Salvador in October 2012. He played an integral part of the Mexico side that progressed to the semi-final of the 2013 Gold Cup, starting in four out of their five matches.
Pena would then sign a permanent deal at Los Panzas Verdes in 2013, helping his side to the Apertura (a mini-league and round robin for the first half of a season) in the top flight. A further ten goals from midfield were scored by the diminutive midfielder overall in the 2013/2014 from 34 matches, as Leon made it a double by winning the Clausura 2014.
He would continue to enjoy 2014 as he part of the Mexico squad the World Cup hosted by Brazil. He made the bench in three of Mexico’s four games as they made the last 16, and got some minutes on the pitch as a substitute in the final group game as his country defeated Croatia 3-1.
Another impressive season in 2014/2015 followed with Pena finding the back of the net eight times with a games total of 33 across league and cup competitions. Season 2015/2016 was when Pena hit his peak scoring form though, with 19 goals in 47 games. A very impressive record for a centre midfielder.
The season was split across two clubs for Pena, as in December 2015 he made the move to Chivas Guadalajara for a £6.2million transfer fee. His 12 goals in 25 games for Leon helped attract the heavyweights Chivas to make their move for ‘Gullit’, and they were rewarded with seven goals from Pena in the second half of the campaign. Chivas rounded off the season with a Supercopa MX victory over Veracruz with Pena playing 88 minutes in the final, played in a neutral ground in California, United States.
Pena’s partying habits off the pitch contributed to a loss of form at Estadio Chivas, as he made a return to Leon on loan in December 2016. Overall, season 2016/2017 saw Pena play less games and score less goals than the years before.
Pena’s last involvement on the international stage came in September 2016 as he was an unused substitute in a World Cup qualifying stalemate with Honduras. Now, with his move to Rangers, many fans of Pena in Mexico are hoping a change of scenery, a new challenge and a manager that could get him focused will bring out the best in ‘Gullit’ once more.