Could potential Karanka appointment lead 2007 promotion hero back to where it all began at Sunderland?

Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka

The former Middlesbrough boss is being linked with a job at Sunderland.

Middlesbrough manager Aitor KarankaFormer Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka

"Speaking on behalf of the players, the news was disappointing. We've had three-and-a-half years of memories, some really good memories."

Those were the words of Middlesbrough midfielder Grant Leadbitter, shortly after Aitor Karanka's departure from the Riverside in March - admirable, considering he'd been used just seven times in the league at that stage of the campaign.

Karanka could soon be back in work, if reports in his native Spain this week are anything to go by - and only a short hop up the A19, too.

The former Real Madrid assistant has been mentioned as a possible contender to replace David Moyes at Sunderland, should the axe fall on the Scot following the Mackems' relegation.

Sunderland manager David MoyesSunderland manager David Moyes

And it would perhaps be little surprise if Leadbitter features on his list of targets if he is sworn in at the Stadium of Light, given that the centre of midfield will likely be an area of priority in this summer's transfer window.

Despite playing a lesser role this season, Leadbitter was a regular under Karanka in the Championship and remained captain throughout his Middlesbrough reign.

But with his contract set to enter its final year, Boro and their new boss - whoever it may be - are unlikely to object should an offer come in for the 31-year-old midfielder, whether they follow Sunderland into the second tier or not.

And Leadbitter would surely jump at the chance to return to his first club, having supported them since childhood, and catalyse a return to their rightful home - in the Premier League.

Sunderland's Grant Leadbitter celebrates (second left)Sunderland's Grant Leadbitter celebrates (second left)

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