KARANKA TRIB­UTE AS KIKE DE­PARTS

The Football League Paper - - CHAMPIONSHIP - By Joshua Richards

AI­TOR KARANKA ad­mit­ted that com­pe­ti­tion for places was why he al­lowed Span­ish striker Kike to leave Mid­dles­brough.

Kike com­pleted a move to La Liga side Eibar this week but won’t be avail­able to play for his new club un­til the sum­mer trans­fer win­dow in July af­ter the Span­ish side failed to get the reg­is­tra­tion lodged in time.

It means the 25-year-old front man faces a long wait to play again, though the same could have been true had he stayed at Boro.

This sea­son, Karanka has splashed the cash on strik­ers David Nu­gent and Jor­dan Rhodes, the lat­ter ar­riv­ing last week for £9m.

The Boro boss be­lieves re­leas­ing Kike was the best thing for the Spa­niard’s ca­reer. He praised his former striker, de­spite a mod­est record of just 16 goals in 75 ap­pear­ances.

“He played here for 75 games, against Manch­ester United for ex­am­ple,” said Karanka. “But the pres­sure was com­ing and good play­ers were ar­riv­ing.

“When I first ar­rived, our striker was Cur­tis Main, and now we have David Nu­gent and Jor­dan Rhodes.

“The team is im­prov­ing and you have to show ev­ery­one how good you are. At the minute, Nu­gent and Rhodes are bet­ter than Kike.

“But I have to say thank you to him as his at­ti­tude and his be­hav­iour have been per­fect for me.”

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