7:00am Friday 10th January 2014
By Scott Wilson
HE might be a head coach rather than a manager, but Aitor Karanka insists he will have the final say over all of Middlesbrough’s transfer dealings this month.
When Karanka was installed as Tony Mowbray’s successor in November, it was envisaged that an entirely new backroom model would be assembled around him, potentially featuring an all-powerful director of football.
That has not happened, and while Karanka has overseen the appointment of goalkeeping coach Leo Percovich, fitness assistant Carlos Cachada and technical analyst Javier Egido, Boro’s recruitment team has remained largely unchanged.
Gary Gill is performing a more senior role in the recruitment process, but Karanka will be the driving force behind all of this month’s transfer activity, with the Spaniard holding daily briefings with chairman Steve Gibson and chief executive Neil Bausor.
“I will be heavily involved in everything that happens this month,” said the Middlesbrough manager. “No one will be coming into the club that I do not know about, and I have a very strong input when it comes to discussing targets.
“I am in regular contact with Neil Bausor and Steve Gibson, and we discuss in depth what is happening. From the moment I arrived, I always said it would be important that we all work together to achieve our aims.
“That has always been my position. We have to trust each other when it comes to making signings, and at the moment, we are working together every day. We want to make more signings this month, but it will only be players that I think are better than the ones that are already here. With Kenneth (Omeruo), I think we have this.”
Omeruo signed a season-long loan from Chelsea earlier this week, and is expected to make his Boro debut at Blackpool tomorrow.
The 20-year-old defender was offered the chance to move to the Premier League with Hull City, and could also have returned to Dutch club ADO Den Haag, for whom he made 36 senior appearances last season.
However, Jose Mourinho was keen for him to remain in England, and urged him to travel to Teesside to meet Karanka and view Middlesbrough’s training facilities at first hand.
Had Mourinho not intervened, Omeruo might well have rebuffed Boro’s interest, and Karanka admits his close relationship with the Chelsea boss was the key to sealing a deal.
“It is important to have those personal contacts,” he said. “When you have a personal relationship, you know how the other coach works, and that is important.
“Chelsea sent the player here because they think we have the same philosophy. Jose knows me as a person and a coach, and for that reason, I think he trusts how we will deal with his player.”
Omeruo is unlikely to be the only player signing for Boro this month, with the club pursuing a number of targets as they look to build on their fine finish to 2013.
Despite their growing links on the continent, it is understood this month’s focus will be on domestic players capable of making an instant impact on a promotion push, with Bradford striker Nahki Wells under serious consideration as he edges towards the exit door at Valley Parade.
Blackburn forward Ruben Rochina is another player generating interest, potentially as part of a deal that could see Lukas Jutkiewicz heading to Ewood Park, while the unsettled Luciano Becchio has been on Boro’s radar for a number of seasons.
As well as monitoring potential arrivals, Karanka is also hoping to oversee a number of departures this month as he looks to reduce the size of a squad he regards as unwieldy.
Faris Haroun will almost certainly return to Belgium, while the likes of Seb Hines, Luke Williams and Andy Halliday could be sent out on loan in order to play some regular first-team football.
“Some players will have to leave,” said Karanka. “We will have to see what happens as the month goes on, but we are working on players possibly leaving as well as some others signing for the club.
“I have been here two months now, and there are some players who have hardly played. If that is the case, maybe it is better for those players to go on loan so they can play.
“If they do that, I can watch them playing and make a better assessment of what they can do. In the future, maybe they will be important players for us, but at this moment, they need to play.”
Kei Kamara has not played for more than a month, but the striker returned to full training yesterday and should be available for the home game with Charlton a week tomorrow.
Kamara’s rehabilitation means Jason Steele is the only player on the long-term injury list, with the goalkeeper facing at least another three weeks on the sidelines as he continues to recover from ankle surgery.
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