Middlesbrough and Money: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The transfer market, as anyone with a passing interest in football will testify, has ‘gone crazy’.

Middlesbrough and Money: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Hundreds of millions of pounds are being exchanged every summer and in January, to the point where we don’t really know what anyone’s value is anymore.

£30m for an uncapped goalkeeper? Sure! £50m for an inconstistent fullback? Where do I sign? Of course, Middlesbrough aren’t quite in the ballpark of those kind of figures just yet, we have been known to be movers and shakers in terms of big money moves in the past, including the recent club record move to bring Britt Assombalonga in for £15m.

We all hope that the former Nottingham Forest striker is a big success for Boro, but recent history shows that for Middlesbrough, money doesn’t always equal value.

A top 10 of Boro’s most expensive players includes two new boys in Assombalonga and Martin Braithwaite, and it is far to early to judge either as a good or bad buy just yet, and so I’ve stretched this to a top 12.

This list comes from Transfermarkt, so if any of the figures on this list are incorrect, take it up with them!

1. Britt Assombalonga – n/a

2. Afonso Alves – The best thing about Assombalonga’s arrival is that we no longer have to deal with the embarrassment of the bumbling Brazilian no longer being the club’s record signing. What can I say that hasn’t been said already?

A showcase arrival, a couple of standout performances against the Manchester clubs, and then a season of useless performances as Boro slid towards relegation.

The last time I saw Alves play was in a 0-0 home draw with Fulham, where he was partnered with on-loan occasional jailbird Marlon King. That King was the better of the two is the lasting legacy of Alves’ Teesside tenure.

Verdict: MISS

3. Marten de Roon – A topical one, for a man who has recently headed through the Rockliffe exit door for the final time. Signed with a reputation as ‘The Wavebreaker’ and ‘The Bulldog’, de Roon ended up playing further forward than bearded blocker Adam Clayton.

De Roon ended up providing a surprising goal threat, finishing the 2016/17 season as the joint-second highest scorer. But when he wasn’t popping up with last minute equalisers, he was running around a lot and never quite fitting the system.

Verdict: MISS

4. Martin Braithwaite – n/a

5. Jordan Rhodes – Ah lovely Jordan. The soft-spoken Lancastrian, who for some reason is Scottish, arrived in January 2016 to get the goals to (overused cliché alert) ‘get us over the line’.

And while he did get some vital strikes to help us go up on goal difference, his fellow January signing Gastón Ramirez was the far more explosive catalyst to the promotion dream coming true.

Rhodes also missed a few chances in draws that could have proved costly. Once the club did make the Premier League, Rhodes was pushed aside as Aitor Karanka starting making eyes at swarthy Spaniard Alvaro Negredo, and Jordan was soon packed off to Sheffield.

Ironically, Rhodes would actually have experienced a better career at Boro had they not been promoted. For his double away at Bolton, and the fact that we actually made money on him, he pulls this one out of the bag.

Verdict: HIT

6. Massimo Maccarone – A man with a place in Boro folklore who was still arguably a failure. A conundrum that has more recently been experienced by Fernando Amorebieta.

The mention of Massimo and his little baldy bonce will always make Boro fans born before 1996 go all misty eyed. His winners in the UEFA cup run of 2005/06 were the pinnacle of the club’s early 2000’s heyday, but away from that, the stark reality was that he failed to live up to his price tag, and found himself behind a host of less expensive striking options in the queue pretty quickly.

It’s a harsh call to make as it wasn’t his fault, but unlike achieving promotion with Rhodes, the fact that we didn’t actually win the UEFA silverware means Massimo’s best bits were in vain.

Verdict: MISS

7. Ugo Ehiogu – Often overshadowed by virtue of playing next to one if if not the, greatest centre back to ever pull on a Middlesbrough shirt in Gareth Southgate, Ehiogu remains the most expensive defender in the club’s history, and it speaks volumes that, unlike many on this list, his transfer fee is rarely brought up in discussing his Boro legacy.

Strong and intelligent, Ugo was no stranger to popping up at the other end and getting on the end of a corner.

Ugo passed away this year and is missed by the football community as a great man as well as a player.

Verdict: HIT

8. Fabrizio Ravanelli – Nowadays a bespectacled rent-a-gob who links himself with the Boro job every time the current manager is under pressure, it’s easy to forget that, behind Ronaldo and Batistuta, Rav was the most in-demand striker in Europe when he signed for Boro in ‘96.

After bursting onto the scene in August playing alongside Juninho and Nick Barmby, as the team began to slump towards relegation in the winter, the White Feather’s impact also diminished. Never seemed to be able to do it on the road.

While it’s harsh to blame relegation on him (form a queue behind Mr. Walsh and Mr. Whyte please, gents), his conduct towards the end of his contract swings him towards ‘Villain’ on the Boro pendulum.

Verdict: MISS

9. Aiyegbeni Yakubu – Like Ravanelli, an acrimonious exit soured ‘The Yak’s time at Boro. Unlike Ravanelli, Yakubu stuck around for more than one season. At times, his goals made him the closest thing to a nailed on scorer we’ve had for an eternity, yet he could never seem to apply the same workrate to the second half of a season as he did the first half, with less than a third of his Boro goals coming after New Years’ Day in the two seasons he was here.

Was undoubtedly a good goalscorer, but was very fortunate to be playing with some of the most talented midfielders in the club’s history.

Verdict: HIT

10. Gareth Southgate - The England manager was brought to Boro by another man who has held the same post, with Steve McClaren making the Aston Villa captain his first signing.

The five years that followed saw Southgate make an impression as Boro’s finest centre back of the Riverside era, possibly of all time.

Lifting the Carling Cup alone makes Gareth an iconic Boro player. Let’s just make a deal and not mention his managerial spell, shall we?

Verdict: HIT

11. Jonathan Woodgate – Obviously returned to the club on a free in 2012, but his first stint at his boyhood club was as Southgate stepped up to the manager’s chair and needed to replace himself in the side. ‘Woody’ was the man he got, on a season-long loan from Real Madrid.

What followed was arguably the best of Woodgate’s career in terms of fitness – missing only 4 matches through injury. His performances persuaded Southgate to make the move permanent the next summer, but he ended up being almost TOO good a signing, and he was poached by Tottenham just 6 months later.

Verdict: HIT

12. Robert Huth - The second centre back recruited by Southgate took a while to get started after arriving from Chelsea, but then for a short while looked like he, along with Woodgate, could form a defensive partnership to rival Ugo and Gareth.

But then the injuries which have disrupted his whole career began to kick in, and Huth struggled to nail down a place in the side. By the time he got going again, Woodgate was gone and Huth was paired with either Chris Riggott or David Wheater as the club slid towards the Premier League trapdoor. Only featured 53 times in 3 years at the club.

Verdict: MISS

Do you disagree with any of my verdicts? Join the discussion on the oneBoro Forum!

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