THREE years as Jose Mourinho’s assistant at Real Madrid and nearly a century of appearances for the Spanish giants on the field – Aitor Karanka certainly has the footballing pedigree.
He also has the backing of his former boss.
“I think whatever club gets him, in England or in another country, will be a lucky club,” said ‘the Special One’ when quizzed about his former deputy.
If widespread reports were to be believed yesterday then Karanka signing on the dotted line at Selhurst Park and being named as the new Crystal Palace manager was just a formality.
By the end of the day the 40-year-old had been named –just about – as the man tasked with Steve Gibson’s quest to get Middlesbrough back to the Premier League.
For Gibson it represents a change in approach – a much- needed fresh outlook judging by the dismal results on the field since the turn of the year.
But it’s very much a brave new dawn for Gibson and the club he so passionately loves.
Ravanelli, Juninho, Emerson, Mendieta, Hasselbaink. Huge names on the field have been and gone at Middlesbrough.
But throughout more than two decades as chairman, the Boro supremo has always retained a British core in his management teams.
That is about to change.
And with the appointment of Karanka, expect a shake-up behind the scenes.
Mark Proctor and Stephen Pears – both Boro through and through – were already said to have left the club yesterday.
Karanka won’t take on the Boro project alone.
Gibson’s close links with Jorge Mendes, Karanka’s agent, has seen the Spaniard never budge from the top trio of candidates in the eyes of the bookmakers.
Despite those links, it’s still something of a coup for Gibson to attract a man who has played and coached at the highest of levels and convince him to opt for Boro as he takes his first step into club management.
That lack of experience as the man in charge is perhaps the biggest gamble involved with the Karanka appointment. And there’s no doubting the fact that in what was perhaps Gibson’s most important ever appointment, Karanka is a gamble.
That and the fact the hustle and bustle of the Championship is a million miles away from the tikka-takka touch-and-go football in Spain’s top league.
Karanka’s only previous experience as the boss was a stint in charge of Spain’s U16 team.
But he played – and learned – under some of the finest managers to grace the game during a glittering career.
A glittering career which boasts three Champions League winners medals, one La Liga title, the Spanish Super Cup and the Intercontinental Cup.
Gibson will perhaps have looked at the example set by Southampton in reaping the rewards of opting for an overseas appointment.
Mauricio Pochettino brought a fresh cultured approach to the south coast club and has since led the Saints to their best start to a season.
Karanka now finds himself with 10 days in which to get to grips with the squad at his disposal.
A trip to Elland Road to kick off his Boro career is as close a trip to a baptism of fire as he will get in the Championship.
But a man with such a footballing background should be more than aware of what England’s second tier is going to throw at him.
He won’t have stepped into the Boro hotseat with his eyes closed. And perhaps as a sign of a future infrastructure, Boro trio Luke Williams, Bryn Morris and Bradley Fewster have jetted out to Spain to link up with Atletico Madrid and train with the Spanish capital’s in-form team.
An early example maybe of how Karanka and his staff will establish links with European teams and attempt to crack the overseas market.