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Keepers to battle it out for number one spot, says Karanka
7:02am Saturday 5th July 2014 in Sport
AITOR Karanka has revealed Dimi Konstantopoulos, Tomas Mejias and Jason Steele will all be given an equal chance to claim the goalkeeping spot at Middlesbrough next season.
Karanka’s squad returned to pre-season training earlier this week and while the Boro boss is in the market to bring in several new faces, his goalkeeping department is complete.
After drafting Mejias in on loan in February, Karanka has signed the Spaniard on a permanent basis, which the club confirmed yesterday, while Konstantopoulos was also handed a new one-year deal at the end of last season.
The head coach is a long-term admirer of Mejias having worked with the 25-year-old at Real Madrid and the Spanish keeper was given the nod in the first game after Shay Given’s departure before being ruled out for a month with a broken finger.
That paved the way for the Greek keeper to stake his claim and after a string of match-winning displays Konstantopoulos was rewarded with a new one-year deal.
The former Hartlepool United stopper is expected to start the season as Karanka’s number one given that form, but the Boro head coach insists he will give everyone an equal chance to earn the jersey.
“They are all training for the number one spot,” the Spaniard revealed. “It will be the same as last season. We have six weeks to work with them. After that I will speak with my goalkeeping coach (Leo Percovich) and with my staff and we will make the right decision for the team.
“Now, if you ask me who is going to be in goal for us on August 9, I couldn’t tell you.”
Steele started Boro’s final game of last season against Yeovil Town, but prior to that his only appearance under Karanka came in the Spaniard’s first game in charge against Leeds United.
The former England Under-21 international was sent off at Elland Road and his lack of appearances has led to speculation that he could be sold this summer.
So far, there has been no firm interest in his services, but Karanka has told the Newton Aycliffe-born keeper he could still reclaim his spot if he impresses during pre-season.
He said: “The message is that if he works harder and better than Tomas and Dimi he’s going to play.
“That’s the message to Jason and also all the players. I prefer to have 22/23 very good players. It is my responsibility to choose the team and I prefer to have problems when choosing my starting line-up, because it means you have the best players.
“It’s better for me to have three keepers because it lets helps me make the very best decision for the team.”