Karanka spent three years as Jose Mourinho’s assistant manager at Real Madrid, the club where he spent the most trophy-laden spell of his playing career - winning three Champions League medals.
He followed Mourinho out the Bernabeu door in 2013, but chose to head into his management career, rather than remain as an assistant. He was appointed Middlesbrough boss in November 2013, and immediately set upon improving the side, leading Boro to a solid mid-table finish.
He utilised his connections with now-Chelsea boss Mourinho, signing Kenneth Omeruo and Nathaniel Chalobah on loan, and has done the same this season, bringing Omeruo back to the Riverside Stadium. The 41-year-old has also strengthen the Boro first-team across the park, bringing in Blues youngsters Patrick Bamford and Jamal Blackman to provide competition in both the goalkeeping and forward positions.
One man who has been impressed with Karanka’s start to life on Teeside is former Boro favourite Gazika Mendieta, who once opposed Karanka in the 2000 Champions League Final playing for Valencia. He spent a five-year spell with Boro from 2003, and now lives just outside the area having retired from his playing career in 2008.
Speaking to Gazette Live, Mendieta praised the club for bringing in such a promising manager, who looks to be leading Boro back to the heights they previously scaled.
He said: “Bringing in Aitor Karanka was an achievement and I think he is building a bright future for the club.
“There is no doubt that the experience he gained working with Jose Mourinho has influenced his coaching style.
“I think the club have realised that this coaching philosophy is a good route to go down in order to be successful.”
Having led the club to a mid-table finish last season, Karanka’s full pre-season of preparation has seen Boro start the current campaign incredibly well, sitting in fifth place, just one point off the top of the Championship table after 11 games. And Mendieta believes he can continue to improve the form as the season progresses.
“Karanka has had time to get to know the club and the Championship better and bring in the players he wanted.
“We’ve already seen him lead the team to a six-game unbeaten run so let’s hope Boro’s good form continues after the international break.
“Things can only get better for Karanka,” he added. “As time goes on the players will get an even better understanding about what the manager wants and the results should keep on coming.”
“I hope for the best for the club and I would like to see them either qualifying automatically for the Premier League or competing in the play-offs.”