After Rudy Gestede’s 2014-15 season at Blackburn Rovers in which he scored 20 goals in 39 games, he became a feared Championship frontman for any defence in the division.
A move to the Premier League soon followed, where Aston Villa were hoping he could make the step up, but his previous seasons’ form didn’t materialise. He scored five goals in the top flight that campaign, and four the year after in the Championship following their relegation.
But he was soon given a second crack of the whip in the Premier League. Despite his goal return of nine goals in 50 games in his previous two seasons combined, Middlesbrough took a gamble on the Benin international for £6 million in January 2016. He scored one goal in 16 games that season.
Since signing for Boro that winter window, he has played 71 times in total in all competitions, roughly an average of around 15 games a season. So why was he such an apparent failure at The Riverside?
Middlesbrough were struggling in the Premier League when Gestede arrived at the club, but his previous tally in the top tier didn’t really fill the majority of Boro fans with confidence. The purchase looked to be a nod towards their next campaign, with the club having one eye on an immediate return to the Championship, which ultimately came to being just a few months later.
The player was on Premier League wages playing in the second division, and although there are plenty at other clubs that share that same feat, Gestede was pushed down the pecking order by the triple signing of Britt Assombalonga, Martin Braithwaite and Ashley Fletcher. His appearances became sporadic in the following campaign, as he only made four league appearances all season.
Often it was a surprise to even see the Beninese on the subs bench, and the majority of fans grew increasingly suspect as to why he remained at the club. But that feeling of bemusement soon turned to anger as he reportedly told fans to ‘f*** off’, mimicked crying and laughed in their faces after persistent booing from supporters following their shock exit at the hands of League Two side Newport County in the FA Cup in February 2019, and talks were held between the club and the players involved.
It prompted a huge response on social media, and plenty of supporters didn’t want to see the striker put on a Middlesbrough shirt ever again. They thought their prayers had been answered as the striker didn’t play a single minute for the remainder of the season.
Over 500 Boro fans made the 12 hour round-trip to watch their team crash out of the FA Cup against Newport last night…
Fans who travelled have claimed players such as Gestede, Besic & Clayton all mocked them as they left the pitch! https://t.co/C7cbDtjItt
— Footy Accumulators (@FootyAccums) February 7, 2019
The more I think about gestede refusing the opportunity to go to millwall on loan and his outburst at Newport the angrier I'm getting with him👊🏻👊🏻
— stuart pearson (@peo__73) February 15, 2019
The booing for Gestede isn’t because he isn’t good enough. It’s down to his attitude last season against Newport. He was never coming back from that, and I’ll never support him in a Boro shirt after the disrespect he showed our fans that night.
— Danny Clark (@ClarkRDanny) August 21, 2019
This summer, it was thought Gestede would move on. Especially as it became apparent quickly that Middlesbrough were looking to cut back on spending and reduce their wage bill, but the striker remained. He was one of the top earners at the club, and there were transfer rumours linking him to the likes of Millwall and Ipswich, but a move never materialised.
The forward got another chance at Boro however, with the arrival of new manager Jonathan Woodgate each player was given a ‘clean slate’. The Head Coach liked to tinker with his line-ups, meaning he would often rotate Assombalonga, Fletcher and Gestede.
When given an opportunity to make an impact from the bench against Barnsley in February 2020, he made little to no effect in the game, leading to fans hurling chants of ‘You’re not fit to wear the shirt’ in Gestede’s direction. Again it prompted a hostile response from the 31-year old, confronting and exchanging words in the face of supporters.
— Chris Cassidy (@CCass6) February 22, 2020
Following Woodgate’s sacking, Neil Warnock took over the reigns and instantly hoped to tie down several players who were nearing the end of their current contracts – Gestede being one of them. But when Warnock asked if he wanted to remain at the Riverside beyond his June 30th contract expiration date, he said he didn’t want to.
“I had a good chat with Rudy” said Warnock in his post-match press-conference after Boro’s 2-0 win at Stoke last weekend. “I asked him to stay, but he said he wasn’t prepared to do that.
“I said you might as well go home now. I sent him off on Thursday, there’s no point in doing anything else.”
Speaking before Boro’s clash with Hull on Thursday this week, the North-East side’s new boss stated that “you need people in the trenches with you in this situation”, suggesting Gestede wasn’t up for the fight, and that’s been the case ever since he signed.
Middlesbrough needed a forward who was up for the relegation scrap when they signed him in the Premier League. When he lost his place in the team, his attitude ultimately suffered. When faced with confrontation and criticism from supporters, he reacted as no footballer should, but admittedly how anyone not in the spotlight would have.
Eight goals in 71 appearances in all competitions is not good enough for a striker at most levels in the English footballing pyramid, let alone a £6 million international professional. But with his head down and tail between his legs, Gestede is now a free agent and will be viewed as one of Boro’s most troublesome frontmen, and one whom supporters will be glad to see the back of.