FABIO Cardoso has suffered his fair share of blows already in Scottish football. Now, he has another battle on his hands at Rangers.
Life at Ibrox has been far from straightforward for the Portuguese as he has been eliminated from the Europa League by Progres Niederkorn, suffered a broken nose in the Betfred Cup semi-final defeat to Motherwell and seen compatriot and manager Pedro Caixinha sacked. Since then, the 23-year-old has made just one competitive appearance as his ability and his future have been called into question.
The obvious option would be the easy one for Cardoso. After just half a season in Scotland, he could return home and look to banish this chapter of his fledgling career to the back of his mind.
That route has never been considered, though, and he remains as determined as ever to make the grade at Rangers. If he does, he will have done it the hard way.
“It’s frustrating not to be in the team but it’s football,” Cardoso said. “I have to respect the decision of the manager. I can’t say anything negative. In the last game [against Celtic], Danny [Wilson] and David [Bates] played very well. I have to respect that. If the manager took me out with no reason, I wouldn’t be happy. So I understand it and respect my team-mates.
“We’re in this together. Things change and I have to be ready when I get my chance. I’m willing to fight for my place in this team. We all have to fight. If we all do that and try our best, the whole team will improve. That’s what we want.
“I’m still a young player, I’m learning the game so I have to be patient. I don’t want to give up. I could give up and try to find another team. But playing for Rangers is going to help me a lot in my career.
“I’m learning a lot here, even when I’m not playing. This is the right place for me to develop as a footballer, as a person and to be successful.
“If the manager wants me here, I want to stay. I’m ready to give my best every day in training and when I get my chance in the team.”
Cardoso has only been called upon once by manager Graeme Murty since he replaced Caixinha as manager – in the win over Aberdeen at Pittodrie – and finds himself down the Ibrox pecking order.
The defender has plenty of critics amongst the Ibrox fans but he wants to win them over rather than prove they were right to doubt him.
“I’ll make mistakes but I’ll learn and we’re improving as a team,” Cardoso said. “We’re more solid now.
“I’m enjoying working with the new manager. He tells you things face to face, he never hides or plays games. I like the way he trains us. He understands UK football because he played in it.
“We’re getting better and every day we’re playing more like the manager wants us to play. It’s going to be a big second half of the season for me because I want to get back in the team. I want to help the team to win games. We’ll do all we can to win every game and put pressure on the team in first position.”
Cardoso may split opinions amongst Rangers supporters but the feelings he has towards them are overwhelmingly positive.
After spells with Pacos Ferreira and Vitoria Setubal in his homeland, life at Ibrox has been a step into the unknown. It is one Cardoso is pleased he made, though.
“I love life in Scotland, I enjoy it,” he said. “It’s impossible not to enjoy playing for Glasgow Rangers. I’ve never played for a big club in big stadiums like here. I’ve never felt support from fans like I do here, it’s amazing. The support we get is unbelievable. They’re so passionate and that’s why feel we have to do more for them and the club. It’s a massive club with huge history. It’s an honour for me to be part of it.
“In Portugal for Vitoria Setubal, I went to play against Porto and Benfica, clubs like that. Sure, they have a lot of supporters but here our fans are different. Even when we play away, I feel like we’re at home.”