The Premier League is shaping up for one of the closest relegation battles in recent memory. Middlesbrough and Hull City are two of six teams separated by just 2 points, and with no clubs looking like they’re willing to fall on their sword like Aston Villa did, it could go down to the final day.
The pressure has been building, and Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka has shown that recently. Airing his frustrations publicly, the Spaniard wears his heart on his sleeve and is clearly totally wrapped up in his task.
Marco Silva is a little different, he’s been parachuted in with a certain freshness. On paper, Hull should be in pieces right now, losing key players to injury and transfer, and largely replacing them with loans. Yet Silva has managed to fashion together something which looks like a good team and there’s optimism around the KCOM.
However, both managers face the same issue with a player between now and the end of the season: Their agent pushing for a move.
Both represented by the same agency, Gaston Ramirez and Abel Hernandez have had more than their fair share of transfer rumours. Before every window there’s serious doubts placed around the future of both players, and January was no different.
Ramirez asked to be allowed to join Leicester City, and Hernandez was repeatedly linked with a move to China.
Pablo Bentancur, who represents Hernandez and Ramirez, said earlier this week on the Hull player: “We brought three proposals from China, one higher than the other, to Hull City with whom he has only one year of the contract. They would not sell him.
“For the player from an economic point of view, it would be a great leap in quality. Changchun Yatai wanted Abel strongly. But we have so many requests for June, from Everton to West Brom.”
Rather than calming the situation, Hull knocking back China approaches appears to have only encouraged Betancur to up the ante ahead of the summer.
With Middlesbrough, Betancur stirred the pot even more, saying: “I was working to bring Ramirez to Leicester, Ranieri and Eduardo Macia wanted him strongly. With Middlesbrough it was a battle, the coach said that if Gaston had gone he would go away too.”
Middlesbrough have since denied Betancur’s claim about a Karanka ultimatum, but it’s clearly not what the club needs at the moment.
Not content to leave it there, even for a week or so, the rumour continued. As if by magic, the same Italian website which spoke to Betancourt on the 7th, had an exclusive on Ramirez interest on the 8th.
Liverpool were now said to be interested and ‘first contacts’ had been made on a potential summer move. Curiously, Ramirez has been linked with Liverpool since 2012, which would mean several managers at Anfield have all wanted the player. A coincidence which is quite hard to believe.
Abel Hernandez has also been linked with a move to Liverpool, it must be a favoured clutch from thin air.
It won’t stop here. If history is a guidance for the future then, between now and the summer, Ramirez and Hernandez will be hawked around clubs and leaks will be pushed to the Italian media.
Whilst Karanka tries to get Ramirez’s head focused purely on saving Middlesbrough, it’s pretty clear that someone else is filling that head with summer fantasies and plans. Hernandez is currently injured, and Silva will hope he’s not having his head filled with ideas of China (the window closes on February 26th) and big contracts awaiting him in the summer.