Aitor Karanka has already utilised his connections with former Real Madrid associate Jose Mourinho, signing four Blues on loan in just over a year since arriving on Teeside.
Kenneth Omeruo and Nathaniel Chalobah spent spells at the Riverside Stadium last term, and the former returned this season, along with Patrick Bamford and Jamal Blackman. Central defender Omeruo and forward Bamford have been instrumental in Boro’s ascent to the upper reaches of the Championship table, although Blackman was signed as goalkeeping cover, and has made just one appearance - playing the full game as Boro took Liverpool to penalties in the League Cup.
At the turn of his year anniversary in charge of the club, fans were asked to suggest where Karanka has impressed since being appointed, and where they felt he still needs to improve, and the answers were published in Gazette Live. Whilst the Spaniard has been commended for his work in the transfer market, much of the Boro faithful believe that the 41-year-old needs to sign midfield cover for Grant Leadbitter and Adam Clayton.
Club captain Leadbitter has been the standout performer on Teeside this season, controlling games with his energetic performances from the midfield, registering eight goals and three assists to lead by example. Similarly, Clayton, who joined the club over the summer from Championship rivals Huddersfield, has been impressive in his debut season for the club, providing a strong defensive base for Leadbitter to build from.
However, if either of the pair were out of action, Karanka only has the ageing Dean Whitehead or unproven Milos Veljkovic to call upon - with the latter yet to make a league appearance since joining on loan from Spurs. If the club intend to seriously fight for promotion, they should be looking for the midfield cover that fans crave, and Karanka could do worse than raiding Chelsea once again - with Lewis Baker at the top of his list.
Baker has already made his first-team debut for the Blues - a remarkable feat for the 19-year-old at a club like Chelsea - and he trains with the first-team on a weekly basis. Mourinho has admitted that he should be blamed if the England Under-20’s captain is not a full senior international in a couple of years, and many are touting the Academy prospect as a future England captain.
Whilst it may be argued that Boro do not need another Premier League loan to fill the squad - with Veljkovic already on the books - Baker offers the kind of presence that would be missing if Leadbitter were to suffer a serious injury. Veljkovic offers a solid presence in the middle of the park, but Baker, who has been compared to Frank Lampard in the past, possesses a serious goalscoring threat - with 23 goals and 16 assists in 54 games last season. He is not afraid to throw his body around, and has been shown to express the energy to fulfil a box-to-box role from a midfield position.
There is a reason Baker is highly sought after in the Championship, and Boro surely have the best chance of getting hold of the talented youngster, with Karanka’s friendship with Mourinho a strong link between the two clubs. He would provide the perfect cover for Leadbitter and Clayton in their absence, and the 19-year-old could be the difference between promotion to the Premier League, or another season in the second tier.