Gaston Ramirez given vote of confidence by Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka

16 February 2017

Gaston Ramirez will be handed a key role in Middlesbrough's dual bid for Premier League survival and FA Cup glory after being welcomed back into the fold.

The 26-year-old Uruguay international stunned the Teessiders last month when he handed in a transfer request with champions Leicester hot on his trail.

However, chairman Steve Gibson and head coach Aitor Karanka stood firm and Ramirez, who played 33 minutes as a substitute in last weekend's 0-0 draw with Everton on his return, remained at the Riverside Stadium as the transfer window closed.

The pair sat down to discuss the situation in the wake of a torrid few weeks, but Karanka, who sends his side into FA Cup fifth-round battle with League One Oxford on Saturday, insists he will show his full appreciation of the South American in his actions rather than his words.

He said: "Yes, we had a meeting, but the best way to show a player how important he is for the team is not on a sofa in a meeting. It is that he is playing and I am giving him all my confidence, as I have tried to do since he arrived here.

"It's not difficult for him because I have always said in press conferences here and in my meetings with him how important he is for the team, and he knows.

"It's not a reason or an excuse that you can tell him. He knows because I have shown him how important he is for this club, for this team, as he was when he came here.

"The team, the club have helped him to reach that level and now with him, we know we have three or four really important months in front of us and he knows he is really important in this team."

Karanka spent much of January hoping to add goals and creativity to his squad, sacrificing Jordan Rhodes and David Nugent to bring in Patrick Bamford and Rudy Gestede, but being thwarted in his efforts to land Robert Snodgrass, Bojan Krkic and Jese Rodriguez.

His need is pressing - Boro are yet to win a league game in 2017 and have scored only three goals in their last eight - and he believes Ramirez can make a significant impact once again in that respect.

Karanka said: "For sure, for sure. He gives us a lot of things with the ball, set-pieces, a quality and pace, so with him on the pitch, we are a better team."