[dropcap]T[/dropcap]he Championship is renowned for its competitiveness and the difficulty for teams that could and should be playing in the Premier League in actually achieving promotion.
Over recent years Middlesbrough have been there or thereabouts, with elimination in the playoffs last season hard for the passionate Teeside support to take.
With 12 games remaining Aitor Karanka’s men sit second, with a 2-1 victory over Wolves on Friday propelling the North East towards an automatic promotion berth.
An able squad has been bolstered with a slightly risky January addition, with silky playmaker Gastón Ramírez being added to Middlesbrough’’s contingent.
The Uruguay international has become something of a forgotten man in recent years, with what was a promising career stagnating.
The attacking midfielder left his homeland as a youngster and quickly excelled in Italy, with Ramírez showcasing skill, footballing intellect and vision for modest Serie A outfit Bologna.
Within two years the former Penarol schemer was being linked with some of Europe’s biggest clubs, with the playmaker appearing to possess the star quality needed to excel at the top level.
Despite the interest of more prestigious sides, Southampton showed their ambition by winning the race for Ramírez’s signature, shelling out a cool £12 million for the South American in 2012.
The last four years have had more dark days than highlights for the 25-year-old.
Initially Ramírez was used as a dynamic and creative asset in the final third for the Saints, but the arrival of Mauricio Pochettino at St Mary’s and his pre-requisite of a stellar work ethic saw the Uruguayan frozen out.
Despite the Argentine having since moved on to Tottenham, Ramírez has not been able to win a place back in the Southampton first-team squad and spent an unsuccessful loan stint at Hull in the second half of last term.
A total of 28 minutes of Premier League action in the first six months of the season in 2015-16 was clearly not enough for a player of Ramírez’s potential, but a loan switch to Middlesbrough could well be a shrewd move for everyone involved.
In the most-recent victory over Wolves, the South American showed his Premier League calibre and reminded the footballing world of his abilities with two goals in a 2-1 win.
With Middlesbrough hoping to end a six-year wait for top-flight football, the addition of Ramírez to Karanka’s squad could well be the decision that gets the club over the line.
For the South American, regular first-team football is needed to salvage a promising career that has hit the skids.
A languid character at times that may have to leave the blood-and-thunder of English football to get back to his best, there is no doubting that the Uruguayan is a talented player.
The slower pace and more technical nature of the game in Italy clearly suited Ramírez, while this style has also been replicated by the Uruguayan national side.
That said, at 25 it is time for Ramírez to get back on the collective radar and put a number of forgettable years behind him.
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