A DEAL to sign him as a player did not go through for one reason or another – but Aitor Karanka is under no doubt that his decision to start his managerial career at Middlesbrough is the correct one.
The 40-year-old Spaniard penned a two-and-a-half year deal with the Teessiders yesterday and immediately set out his target to get Boro back to the Premier League – where Karanka believes the club “deserves to be”.
And despite the fact the former Real Madrid and Athletic Bilbao star has not played or coached in England, he says he already has an understanding of what his new employers are all about.
“I know the history of the club,” said the calm, collected Karanka as he spoke to the assembled press for the very first time as he was unveiled as Middlesbrough’s new head coach yesterday.
“I was close to signing here as a player in 2005 and I have met the people here.
“The people are amazing, the club, the facilities, the people who work here in Middlesbrough.
“I think it’s the best option.”
Karanka boasts a CV as a player which is nothing short of exceptional.
Three Champions League winners medals during a 93-appearance career with Real Madrid sit pretty in his trophy cabinet along with one La Liga title, the Spanish Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.
But one box the former Spain Under-16 coach never ticked was trying his hand at the English game.
With three years of experience as Jose Mourinho’s understudy at Real Madrid behind him, Karanka now has that opportunity as he steps into the world of club management for the very first time.
When asked why he chose England, he said: “It’s the most important place in football. I would have loved to have played here, but it wasn’t possible.
“But now I have the opportunity to start here.”
The new boss now has nine days in which to get to know his new players ahead of his first assignment, a challenging trip to Leeds United in the Championship on Saturday week.
He will be hoping for an immediate response from the team as he seeks to close the eight-point gap on sixth place and get Boro back into the reckoning for a play-off spot.
And Karanka pulled no punches in setting out what he expects from his players on a day-to-day basis.
“My expectation is to work hard every day,” said the Basque-born coach.
“I know the history of the club and the place where Boro deserves to be – in the Premier League.
“I’m going to work every day to get this dream.
“I think the players are ready. Everybody has told me the players are ready and excited.”
It will be interesting to see if Mourinho helps out his former assistant by loaning out some Chelsea players.
Meanwhile, chairman Steve Gibson refused to comment on the fate of Boro’s backroom staff, including Mark Venus who took charge on an interim basis following Mowbray’s exit.