Pedro Caixinha: A bizarre footnote in Scottish football history
His recruitment by the Ibrox club as successor to Mark Warburton was unquestionably of the left-field variety.
As his tenure was ended yesterday after just 231 days and 26 games in charge, Caixinha is now destined to be remembered in years to come as nothing more than a bizarre footnote in Scottish football history.
This is not how the three-man recruitment panel, authorised by Rangers chairman Dave King to find the right man to replace Warburton earlier this year, saw events panning out as they enthusiastically trumpeted the qualities and potential of the 46-year-old Portuguese coach back in March.
Managing director Stewart Robertson, head of administration Andrew Dickson and board director Graeme Park - son of fellow director and major club investor Douglas - were the trio handed the task. Caixinha was brought to their attention by agent Pedro Mendes, the former Rangers midfielder, who promoted the interest of his compatriot in the post.
In fairness to Robertson and his colleagues, they cannot be accused of failing to carry out due diligence in the process. They assessed and interviewed several other candidates, including former Rangers manager Alex McLeish and now Derby County boss Gary Rowett.
But it soon emerged that Caixinha had proved to be persuasive and impressive when they met him. He immediately became their preferred choice, regardless of the compensation payment required to extricate him from his contract with Qatari club Al-Gharafa.
Largely unheralded Portuguese coaches have succeeded in British football before and perhaps the Rangers recruitment team were partly tempted by a trend which has recently seen Marco Silva and Carlos Carvalhal make a positive impression in England.
Whatever the reason, Robertson is likely to be haunted for some time by the statement he made on the day Rangers confirmed Caixinha’s appointment on a three-year contract.
“We compiled a shortlist of high-quality candidates for the position but we knew after our initial meeting with Pedro that he was the right man to take this club forward,” said Robertson at the time.
“He is a man of great experience and authority and the board has no doubt he will help us achieve our long-term goals. I would like to thank the Rangers supporters for their patience throughout the process but we were determined to appoint the best candidate possible.”
Every managerial appointment is a gamble of sorts, of course, but Caixinha’s has to be regarded as one which was, at best, unnecessary and, at worst, reckless. His departure leaves Rangers facing another major rebuild of the first team coaching set-up and overhaul of playing squad.
They had hoped Caixinha might prove the answer in their quest to reclaim competitive credibility in the pursuit of major domestic honours and a return to sustained involvement in European football.
His managerial CV offered only patchy evidence those wishes would be fulfilled. Unremarkable spells in charge of Uniao Leiria and Nacional in his homeland were followed by a trophy-winning spell in Mexico at Santos Laguna before his move to the lucrative but little-regarded Qatar Stars League.
Caixinha took over a Rangers side which had been stabilised by the caretaker management of the club’s development coach Graeme Murty. While he was formally appointed on 11 March, Caixinha opted to leave Murty in charge for the Old Firm match at Celtic Park the following day when a creditable 1-1 draw was secured. It remains the only blow Rangers have managed to strike against a Celtic side whose unprecedented domestic dominance since their appointment of Brendan Rodgers has made the challenge facing Caixinha or any other Ibrox manager all the more daunting.
Caixinha’s reign formally kicked off with a 4-0 win at home to Hamilton Accies but he did little in what was left of the 2016-17 season to suggest he might suddenly perform some kind of alchemy with the Rangers squad.
A 3-0 win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie in April offered brief encouragement for the Rangers supporters but that quickly dissipated. Caixinha had no answers tactically against Rodgers as Rangers lost 2-0 to Celtic in the Scottish Cup semi-final at Hampden, then suffered the humiliation of a record 5-1 home Old Firm defeat the following week.
Caixinha also presided over Rangers’ first home defeat against Aberdeen for 26 years as the season petered out into a third-place Premiership finish, with many of the club’s fans already harbouring serious reservations about his suitability for the job.
Plenty were prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, however, as the Rangers board funded a radical summer revamp of the squad he had inherited. Estimates vary as to some of the fees shelled out, but around £8 million was invested in signing eight new players - Bruno Alves, Ryan Jack, Fabio Cardoso, Daniel Candeias, Alfredo Morelos, Eduardo Herrera, Carlos Pena and Graham Dorrans. Three more - Dalcio, Aaron Nemane and Declan John - were secured on loan.
Caixinha discarded the bulk of Warburton’s signings. Barrie McKay, Joe Garner, Martyn Waghorn, Rob Kiernan and Matt Crooks were sold, Clint Hill and Philippe Senderos were freed, while Andy Halliday, Harry Forrester, Michael O’Halloran and Joe Dodoo were loaned out.
It was now a team with Caixinha’s imprint all over it but the first impression it made was one of the darkest blots on Rangers’ history. In truth, Caixinha could count himself fortunate not to be sacked on 4 July when the Ibrox men lost 2-0 to Luxembourg minnows Progres Niederkorn and were eliminated in the first qualifying round of the Europa League.
He survived that debacle but although Rangers kicked off the Premiership campaign with a 2-1 win at Motherwell, they quickly fell off the early pace with a 3-2 defeat against Hibs and 0-0 draw against Hearts, both at Ibrox.
Momentum proved painfully elusive for Caixinha who was never able to put together a run of even three consecutive victories for Rangers.
Last month’s 2-0 defeat at home to Celtic was as comprehensive as those at the end of last season, indicating clearly that Caixinha was no closer to closing the gulf in quality which currently exists between the old rivals.
There was already a sense that he was on borrowed time and things began to unravel dramatically.
His fall-out with veteran striker Kenny Miller, banished from the first team squad, was an indicator of wider disharmony in the dressing room.
The majority of Caixinha’s signings have failed to impress and the team’s half-hearted display in last Sunday’s 2-0 Betfred Cup semi-final defeat to Motherwell at Hampden was the final straw for the vast majority of Rangers supporters.
When he verbally lacerated his own players at his media conference on Monday, Caixinha perhaps knew himself that his fate at Rangers was already sealed, even before Wednesday’s dramatic late collapse in the 1-1 draw at home to Kilmarnock.
Everyone in Scottish football certainly now knows who he is. How the Rangers board must now wish they had left him in obscurity.