As Pedro Caixinha steps into the office vacated by Mark Warburton, he was quick to stress that he doesn’t expect to immediately conjure up any miracles at the Ibrox club.
While his freely stated and eyebrow-raising aim of eventually winning a European trophy in the job showed there are no limits to his ambition, Caixinha insists he also possesses a firm sense of realism about the task he faces in restoring Rangers’ fortunes to the levels their fans crave.
“I’m not a magician,” said the 46-year-old as he formally took charge of a team who are currently trailing 33 points in the wake of six-in-a-row champions-elect Celtic. I’m a football coach. I need to implement things and maybe to work more here than in a normal situation but I have no problem with that because I love my work and I’m passionate about it. I cannot promise that things are going to change just like that. But I can promise you that the gap is going to be reduced and reduced.”
Caixinha’s CV, with six years as an assistant manager at Sporting Lisbon, Panathinaikos, Rapid Bucharest and Saudi Arabia followed by moving into front-line management at Uniao Leiria and Nacional in his Portuguese homeland before stints in charge of Santos Laguna in Mexico and then Qatari side Al-Gharafa, can hardly be described as compelling in assessing his suitability for the high profile and demanding job he has now.
Any scepticism does not faze him, however, and he simply hopes he and the coaching staff he will bring with him are afforded a reasonable opportunity to prove their worth.
“I faced the same situation when I went to Mexico at first,” he said. “I would just say one thing – at least give us the benefit of the doubt. Let us work. Then they can evaluate our work. We are exposed to it, not just here but all the football coaches in the world, they’re all in this situation. It’s even bigger here because we’re at Rangers.
“I always believe in projects. For me projects have to be one process and you know that from that one process you are going to get one product. It’s like one factory. You manufacture one product but it takes a process to get it. For me, football is the same thing and the process needs time to get the product you really want to build. I believe in the long term.
“When you say that I move around a lot for some reasons along my career, it happened more when I was an assistant. The long-term job that I had was the one when my philosophy and the club’s philosophy were matching, when I spent three years in Santos Laguna and won trophies.
“If you go there, you know that the coaches in Mexico are sometimes moving around after just three match days. I spent three years in the job so that says a lot about the relationship. I’m not a guy who knows everything. But I’m a guy who wants to know everything – and keep learning. I’ve been a head coach for five or six years. But I’ve had a lot of experience and I’m a totally different guy now.”
Caixinha has left a far more lucrative job behind in Qatar in order to take on the challenge posed by Rangers and insists salary considerations were never an issue. “My goals have never been financial,” he said. “When I started coaching the under-14 team in my home town in Portugal, they paid the other coaches €500 a month and I was earning €150. I don’t care about the money. I care about doing the things I’m addicted to, doing the things I am impassioned to do, so this is my dream. All coaches have the dream of one day arriving at a big club, a massive club like this. I know that this is a massive chance for me and I want to take it, but for me the money is not important. I mean, I went to Qatar watching the financial situation for sure. Thank God I now have enough for my family life on a daily basis and keep helping me to grow my sons. I’m happy with that. But what I want now is to feel this pressure at a club like Rangers, to work at this level and to be able to put my philosophy in practice.”
Among his opening remarks yesterday, Caixinha labelled the squad of players he inherits at Rangers as the best in Scotland. It was almost certainly a more motivational comment than one of genuine conviction, as he clarified later.
“I always believe in the players who work with me on a daily basis, wherever I am,” he added. “These are the guys who win for me, so I think all the time that they are the best. According to my point of view, they are the best in the country. If I don’t believe in my players, do you think they are going to believe in me? This is the philosophy I need to share with them.
“Celtic would disagree, definitely. I need to agree with the facts you are exposing me to there. But I do believe Celtic wants Rangers to be strong. I believe that Scottish football wants Rangers to be strong.
“You don’t want to fight all the time and the champion is always in the pre-qualifier for the Champions League. You don’t want a team to have four knock-out games in order to arrive at the group stage. Do you want that working in football here in Scotland? So definitely we need a strong Rangers [to improve the Uefa co-efficient] for the future.
“The players are the main actors in that. They can help you a lot, for sure, and can make your job easier. But it’s not only about players. It’s also about the structure. If you have a strong structure, if you have all the departments well organised, it’s much easier. The players will help you to do it. But it will take time.”