Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka has told Gazette Live that defender Alex Baptiste will have every chance to play a major part in his squad for next season.

Baptiste, currently on loan at Sheffield United, has been described as a ‘special player’ by Karanka, who allowed him to leave temporarily to build up his match fitness following a serious injury.

A 2-1 home win over Reading on Tuesday night propelled Boro to the top of the Championship table. Although there is a real possibility that they could be a Premier League club next season, Karanka insists that he won’t rule someone like Baptiste out of his plans until he is given an opportunity.

Baptiste has been impressing in his performances with the Blades, who look set to miss out on a League One play-off place. Nevertheless, Karanka has been tracking his progress very closely and is already looking forward to seeing him in pre-season,

“We are following him (at Sheffield United) and for me he’s a special player,” Karanka said.

“It’s been a tough, tough season for him but he’s enjoying playing again.

“I’m really pleased – I’ve known him for just 10 months but he’s the kind of player and the kind of lad who deserves every single thing.

“Of course (I’ll look forward to seeing him in pre-season). He’s the kind of player I’d like to have in my squad.”

The 30-year-old injured himself during a pre-season game against York City in July 2015 and hasn’t played a competitive game for Boro since. Whilst his focus in on Sheffield United for now, he will certainly be keen to play his part next season at a higher level. Be that Premier League or Championship.

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I currently work as a Championship Research Analyst for Onside Analysis Ltd. In this role I provide match previews and reviews for every Championship game. I also delve into matches from all across the globe, gaining an insight into football from different leagues in different countries. I came into this role shortly after graduating from The University of Hull after studying BSc Sports Coaching & Performance. I am a Lincoln City fan and thankfully they're back in The72!!

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