The best and worst signings of Aitor Karanka's Middlesbrough spell - six years to the day since he took charge

Former Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.Former Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.
Former Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka.
Six years ago today, Aitor Karanka was appointed Middlesbrough manager in a spell that lasted just shy of four years at The Riverside.

During his tenure, Karanka guided Boro to a play-off final and then successfully to promotion to the Premier League.

During his three-and-a-half-years at the club, Karanka oversaw seven transfer windows and here we look at some of the best and worst signings made under the Spaniard’s reign.


Daniel Ayala - January 2014 - £378,000

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Ayala joined Boro permanently in January 2014 after impressing during a three-month emergency loan spell, becoming Karanka’s first permanent signing as manager.

Sat at the heart of the defence, Ayala has become a constant fixture in the Middlesbrough defence and was voted the 2016 PFA Fan’s Player of the Year for his role in Boro’s successful promotion campaign.

Patrick Bamford - August 2014 - Loan

Bamford had two spells at Middlesbrough but it was his first spell, whilst on loan from Chelsea, that caught the eye of Boro fans.

The striker scored nineteen goals throughout the 2017/18 season, seventeen of those coming in the Championship.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

These crucial goals earned Bamford a £5.5m transfer back to Middlesbrough in January 2017 and although he couldn’t replicate the form of two years previous, he was sold in July 2018 to Leeds, with Boro netting a possible £5m profit in the process.

Adam Forshaw - January 2015 - Undisclosed (believed to be around £2m)

The current Leeds United midfielder signed for Middlesbrough during their failed promotion bid in 2015.

Despite only joining in January, Forshaw made 20 appearances that season and made just shy of seventy more appearances during Boro’s promotion campaign and subsequent relegation season.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Forshaw remained at Middlesbrough until Leeds came calling in August 2018 and is currently an integral part to Marcelo Bielsa’s side.

Kike - July 2014 - £2,000,000

The Spaniard signed for Boro from Real Murcia in 2014 and became the focal-point for Karanka’s teams at the beginning of his reign.

Kike scored some crucial goals for Middlesbrough, including a goal in a FA Cup win over Manchester City and a play-off semi-final goal against Brentford.

The signings of David Nugent and Jordan Rhodes forced Kike out of the side and he left in February 2016 for Eibar, despite interest from Leeds and Wolverhampton Wanderers at the time.

Victor Valdes - July 2016 - Free Transfer

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Barcelona legend Victor Valdes played at the Spanish giants for twelve years before becoming Middlesbrough’s No1 during their time in the Premier League.

Although the season ended in relegation, Boro were often tough to beat at The Riverside and they only conceded 23 goals at home all season.

Valdes retired from football six-months after his release from The Riverside.


Rudy Gestede - January 2017 - £6,000,000

Whilst at Blackburn Rovers, Gestede had come accustomed to scoring goals for fun, averaging a goal every two games at Ewood Park.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Therefore, he came to a struggling Middlesbrough backed by expectation from a crowd that was hoping Boro could finally find their shooting boots.

Yet, Gestede has managed just four goals for the club in forty games and so far this season, has only featured four times.

Jordan Rhodes - February 2016 - Undisclosed (believed to be around £10m)

Rhodes gained a reputation as a fearsome goalscorer at first Huddersfield Town, and then at Blackburn Rovers, scoring over 150 goals in seven seasons at the two clubs.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

He therefore came to Boro with a huge reputation and an expectation his goals would help get the side promoted from the Championship.

Promotion was achieved, however, Rhodes could not make the step up to the Premier League and managed just six top-flight appearances.

Rhodes departed The Riverside after exactly a year at the club, scoring just six goals in 24 games.

Damià Abella - August 2014 - Free Transfer

Damià signed for Middlesbrough on a two-year contract in August 2014 but managed just six Championship games during his time in the North East.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

His time at Middlesbrough was marred by injury, including a serious knee injury picked up whilst on international duty.

Julien De Sart - February 2016 - Undisclosed (believed to be around £2m)

The 22 year-old came to the North East, having played for a Belgium U21 side full of talent, whilst featuring regularly for Standard Liege.

Despite being a promising defensive midfielder, De Sart featured just twice in the calendar year of 2016 and was shipped out on loan to Derby County in January 2017.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

De Sart also failed to make an impact at Pride Park and is now back playing in his homeland of Belgium.

Viktor Fischer - May 2016 - £4,500,000

Fischer garnered a great reputation in Holland, starring for Ajax and much was expected from yet another talent churned out of the Ajax academy.

However, Fischer played in just 13 Premier League games and failed to deliver on the hype surrounding his move from Holland.

He moved on to Germany in July 2017 and now plays back in his home country for Copenhagen.