The loan signing of Alvaro Negredo from Valencia is something that should definitely excite Middlesbrough fans. The striker is a proven goal-scorer in the Premier League after a spell with Manchester City and has plenty of experience, turning 31 before the season starts.
Perhaps more importantly, though, Negredo has a point to prove, which could make him an even more frightening prospect for defences in England.
In terms of stature, Negredo’s return to the Premier League, going from Europe-chasing Valencia to newly-promoted Boro, is a step down. But there is a sense that it’s necessary in order for the man from Madrid to have any chance of returning to the kind of form that saw him dubbed ‘the Beast’ while at City.
After four goal-laden years at Sevilla, including a 31-goal haul in his last campaign at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, making him the highest scoring Spaniard in La Liga that season, Negredo completed a €20m move to Manchester in the summer of 2013.
In his first six months at the Etihad Stadium, Negredo was on fire, with a run of form that saw him score 19 goals in 20 games in all competitions. The former Real Madrid forward appeared to be forming a lethal partnership with Sergio Aguero in Manuel Pellegrini’s 4-4-2 system, and had also become a firm fan favourite in a short amount of time.
But disappointingly for City fans, Negredo did not score after January 2014 and returned to Spain in a loan deal with Valencia. Injuries and an apparent loss of faith in the striker from Pellegrini contributed to his departure, and he has never recovered. In Valencia, Negredo never seemed to regain full fitness, which resulted in inconsistent performances and simply not enough goals for the standards that he has set in his career.
There is still hope for Negredo, however. In Aitor Karanka, the forward has a Coach on Teeside who knows his capabilities from his time working in Spain. Moreover, the Spanish contingent at the club will help Negredo settle in – Victor Valdes and former Valencia teammate Antonio Barragan have already joined this summer, and Daniel Ayala and Tomas Meijas were already at the club.
Karanka will know the need to have a top-class centre-forward who can get his team goals week in, week out, and Negredo could be the man to do just that. There will be no shortage of rivals for places, with Jordan Rhodes, Victor Fischer, David Nugent and former Espanyol player Christian Stuani giving the ex-Real Madrid assistant something of a selection headache.
Yet Negredo is the name that stands out above all others. He is the seasoned international who has more than 200 goals in a successful career. If he can rediscover some of the form that saw him become the feared forward he was, then Boro might have the player to keep them in the Premier League.