Former Middlesbrough star Gaizka Mendieta has opened up about his time at the club, revealing it was easier for him to adapt to life in England than Italy.
Mendieta is an icon at the Riverside, having first arrived at the club on loan from Lazio in the summer of 2003.
That move became a permanent one the summer after an impressive first year that saw him establish himself as the star in Middlesbrough’s team with two goals and five assists in all games.
He went on to spend another three years at the club after signing on a free transfer in 2004, and despite only making 79 appearances and managing four goals and six assists, he is still fondly remembered by the club’s fans.
That is largely down to his performances in that first season, which saw the club win the League Cup and finish as runners up in the UEFA Cup.
Many had predicted he would struggle in England given he’d spent the previous years of his career in the less physical Spanish and Italian leagues.
He, though, says the open nature of the game in England made it much easier than expected for him to start at Middlesbrough.
“Because football was completely different,” he told AS.
“At that time English football was very open, there were big spaces, and I was perhaps doing better.
“Also, Middlesbrough had a great team that played very good football, and that was a lot in the Premier League.
“The club had the ability to attract players who, because of our profile, found it difficult to defend against opponents.
“It took me less time to adapt to the Premier League than to Serie A, but it also took me a few months to reach my best level; the difference is that perhaps I had more continuity.”