Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mendieta Shares Boro's Ambitions

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Mendieta Shares Boro's Ambitions

Article excerpt

Byline: By Jack Pickering

Steve McClaren has admitted the half-hour he spent persuading Gaizka Mendieta his future lay on Teesside may just be the best of his management career to date.

The delighted Boro boss unveiled his latest capture yesterday afternoon after impressing the 29-year-old Spanish international with his ambition during a 30-minute chat in Rome last week.

Remarkably, Boro have tied up Mendieta, who joined Lazio in a pounds 28.9m move from Valencia two years ago, for the next five years without having to pay a transfer fee, and McClaren, as well as chairman Steve Gibson, could hardly be more satisfied.

"We've been all summer searching for the one, two or three special players that would take us forward, and I was very surprised a couple of weeks ago when somebody mentioned that Gaizka was available," he said.

"It's taken a lot of work behind the scenes. (Chief executive) Keith (Lamb) and the chairman have been fantastic in setting up this deal, and once Gaizka was available, all our attentions were on him and convincing him that this was the place to come. The trip to Rome and Lazio, half an hour with him after training, was an interesting experience, but one in which I think we both shared similar ambitions, Gaizka in his football and me for this football club.

"I was delighted when I got the phone call that he was coming here and had no hesitation."

Mendieta had established himself as one of the most glittering talents in European football when Lazio snapped him up from Valencia in the summer of 2001.

However, the Bilbao-born midfielder struggled to make an impact in Serie A was sent out on loan to Barcelona last season, a saga which he admits affected his confidence.

"The most important thing for a player is to have confidence," he said. "When you know you have a coach and a team that always supports you, that's most important.

"I've come here to enjoy my football again, to entertain the supporters and to try to take Middlesbrough to as high as possible.

"I want to play in the Premier League and Middlesbrough have given me this opportunity. …

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