Few foreign imports at Ibrox have had the impact of Ignacio Javier Gómez Novo, or ‘Nacho’ to the Ibrox faithful. The diminutive Spaniard’s speed, finishing and whole-hearted approach to the game have made him a hero to the blue half of Glasgow and a regular thorn in the side of rivals Celtic.
Not many players trade the sunny shores of Spain for the greyer skies of Scotland but for Novo it was undoubtedly the right decision.
After plying his trade for Spanish Segunda Division side Huesca until 2001, Novo chose Scotland as the place to kick-start his career. His first taste of Scottish football came with Raith Rovers.
He settled in immediately and the 19 goals he hit in his first season at Stark’s Park won him a move to the Scottish Premier League with Dundee. After a slow start in his first season at Dens Park, Novo hit his stride in his second season. He netted 26 times in the 2003-04 campaign, including goals in the UEFA Cup.
That European experience would stand him in good stead for his next move – to Rangers. It had taken him three seasons to do it, but Nacho had now worked his way to the top of the Scottish game. Amid rumours that Celtic were also chasing his signature, Novo put pen to paper at Ibrox in July 2004 for £450,000. It proved to be a fantastic piece of business for Rangers – less than half-a-million pounds for a player coming into his prime who was a proven goalscorer in the Scottish game.
Novo immediately clicked with Rangers’ Croatian target man Dado Prso. The pair hit 37 goals between them in their first season together, firing the Gers to the SPL title. Novo’s goal against Hibs on the last day of the season proved crucial as Rangers pipped bitter rivals Celtic to top-spot by a single point.
Scoring on the big occasion was to become a trademark of Novo at Rangers. In the 2007-08 season, remembered by fans for Rangers’ heroic European exploits, it was Novo who popped up time and again with vital contributions.
The Spanish striker scored a last-gasp winner against Red Star Belgrade at Ibrox which would send them into the Champions League group stage. Despite not progressing in that competition, the Gers made it all the way to the final of the UEFA Cup final.
Novo scored another vital goal to see off Panathinaikos and converted the final penalty against Fiorentina to book his side a place in the UEFA Cup final in Glasgow. The following season he played a crucial part in Rangers' double winning 2009 team. He was a vital player in the Scottish Premiership title charge, and scored only seconds after coming on as a half-time substitute in the Scottish cup final. Rangers hung on to defeat Falkirk 1-0. Novo had cemented his place in Ibrox folklore.
He left Rangers in 2010 to return to his homeland, signing a deal with Sporting Gijón.