Aikor Karanka feels joining Middlesbrough was the best decision of his life.
After spending three years as an assistant to Jose Mourinho at Real Madrid, the former centre-back took up the head coach role at Boro in 2013.
Karanka’s team suffered defeat in the 2014-15 Championship play-off final but secured automatic promotion to the Premier League in the following campaign.
Boro began their top-flight season with a 1-1 draw at home to Stoke City on Saturday, and the Spaniard is elated with how his career is panning out.
“Coming here is the best decision I ever made in my life,” said Karanka in an interview with El Pais.
“On a personal level, it was a matter of improving myself. I came from a tough Championship and reached the Premier League.
“It’s been a tough journey on a personal level and I feel back to being myself, because I could make the decisions that I thought appropriate at all times.
“For me it is an honour to be with Pep [Guardiola], [Jurgen] Klopp, Mou [Jose Mourinho], [Mauricio] Pochettino, [Antonio] Conte … it’s a privilege.
“If you told me five years ago I would be a coach in the Premier League I would not have believed it.”
Karanka considers Mourinho the greatest influence in his coaching career, but tries to take lessons from playing under the likes of Jupp Heynckes and Vicente del Bosque at Real Madrid.
“Mou is something else, but not everything is Mou. But he is the most important [influence] because it coincided with the time that I saw I definitely wanted to do this,” added Karanka.
“You learn from everyone. My father was a coach and I have been fortunate enough to play under Heynckes, Del Bosque, [Athletic Bilbao coach Ernesto] Valverde.
“And I played with great players at Madrid and Athletic with whom we spent hours talking about this.”