The mastermind behind Middlesbrough’s storming of the Championship’s upper echelons, Spanish tactician Aitor Karanka is fast garnering a reputation as one of the hottest managerial properties outside of the Premier League.
His Boro team will resume their promotion charge at Wigan next, where a 7/4-rated win could take them to the summit of the second-tier.
Such is the form of the team and the credentials of their manager, fearful fans in the north east are beginning to worry Karanka finds himself caught up in the tractor beam of a struggling top-flight faction looking to recruit a talented coach to stave off relegation danger.
Premier League sides on the slide are plentiful, with Aston Villa, Sunderland and QPR among those in danger.
Of these, the most likely to reshuffle their backroom team is the latter, who fear financial ruin should they fail to escape the drop zone come the end of the campaign.
The R’s currently occupy 19th-spot and can be backed at 11/10 to go down, with Karanka 20/1 third-favourite to be their next permanent manager behind Tony Pulis and Tim Sherwood.
Another boss to emerge from under wing of Jose Mourinho, the Spaniard exemplifies many of the Special One’s traits, prioritising organisation at the back over all else.
This commitment to reinforcing the rearguard is likely to bear fruit in the top-tier, as it did for Pulis at Crystal Palace last term.
Having shipped just 12 league goals all season, no Championship side can boast a defence as frugal as Middlesbrough’s, which hasn’t leaked since Troy Deeney’s 61st-minute strike for Watford at the Riverside four games back.
A safety-first approach is typical of a Mourinho-schooled coach, but one attribute of Karanka’s that differentiates him from the Portuguese pragmatist is a willingness to risk compromising results for the development of young players.
With QPR vying to become more self-sufficient, adopting such a policy is essential.
The former Real Madrid number two also subscribes to squad rotation theories, which will benefit the Super Hoops’ ageing roster.