Aitor Karanka took up his position as Head Coach in November 2013, succeeding Tony Mowbray. The former Real Madrid assistant manager became the first foreign national to take charge of team affairs at Boro.

Forty-years-old when he joined Boro, Karanka worked under Jose Mourinho at the Bernabeu and was widely regarded as one of Europe’s brightest young coaching talents.

Karanka had left Real Madrid in summer 2013 on the arrival of Carlo Ancelotti, who took over from Chelsea-bound Mourinho. Before joining their coaching staff, he was manager of the Spanish U-16 team.  He also represented Real Madrid as a player, making 93 appearances between 1997 and 2002 and winning the Champions League with them in 2000 when they beat Valencia 3-0. 

Aitor Karanka after the Play-Off final in 2015

The Vitoria-born defender started his playing career with Athletic Bilbao and returned for a second spell with the Basque club after leaving Madrid before finishing his career in the USA with Colorado Rapids. 

Karanka won a single cap for the Spanish senior team, having played 14 times for their U21 side. 

He also represented Spain in the 1996 Olympic football tournament, where they reached the quarter-finals, and also played for the Basque country team. 

Karanka’s first game in charge of Boro ended in a 2-1 defeat away to Leeds. But he didn’t have long to wait for his first win which came seven days later, 1-0 at home to Bolton.

Six wins from the last eight games of his first season saw Boro finish in 12th position, eight points away from a Play-Off place and 29 from second placed Burnley...but the seeds for success were already being sown.

In his first full season at the helm, Boro came within a whisker of clinching promotion to the Premier League, only to fall at the final hurdle with defeat at the hands of Norwich City in the Sky Bet Championship Play-Off Final.

That Wembley reverse served to inspire Karanka and his players, and a fantastic season saw Boro seal promotion back to the Premier League, by picking up the required point from the final day fixture against Brighton at the Riverside.

Promotion celebrations 2016

Karanka's side had shown great efficiency and a record of 22 clean sheets during the season spoke volumes. Boro also claimed the scalp of Manchester United in the League Cup.

The Premier League saw Karanka make some big name signings, including former Barcelona goalkeeper Victor Valdes, the most decorated player ever to play for Boro. When Karanka's men beat Swansea at the Riverside in December we were 12th in the league, but that proved to be as good as it got.

A run of 10 league games without a win - and just four points collected - left Boro plummeting from safety towards relegation, and Karanka parted company with the club in March, a 2-0 defeat at Stoke City proving his last league action.