Stewart Downing has finalised his move back to his first professional club by agreeing to a lucrative 5 year deal with Aitor Karanka’s Middlesbrough.
Statistically Downing was the Hammers most creative player last season, scoring six & assisting eight, reborn in a central attacking midfield role which saw the 30 year old earn a recall to the England squad after an absence of two and-a-half years. At points during the 14/15 season, Downing was holding his own against the likes of Eden Hazard, Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata & Gylfi Sigurdsson in terms of goals, assists, chances created & key passes.
A strange move for one of the Premier League’s most creative talents to take the step down to the Championship after experiencing their best form for the best part of four years. Not necessarily, with the headline arrival of Dimitri Payet from Marseille, Downing was always going to make way for the talented Frenchman as Payet made twice as many assists, created more than 50 more chances, 40 more key passes and scored 1 more goal in fewer games in Ligue 1 last season.
Downing was also comprehensively an Allardyce signing, at first reluctant to make the move down to London without assurances from the former Bolton manager about playing time as Downing tried to resurrect his career after a disastrous spell at Liverpool. With Slaven Bilic now in the dug-out and a major signing brought in in the same position as Downing, both he & the West Ham board were willing to listen to potential offers if the price was right (Downing is also one of the highest paid players at West Ham)
The package that Middlesbrough have put together sees Downing actually get a slight pay rise and a five year contract offered to any player is rarely heard of and extremely attractive to a player over the age of 30. West Ham will recoup their initial outlay on Downing of about £5 million as well as allow them to reinvest his wages elsewhere as Bilic stamps his mark on the West Ham squad.
Whilst Downing gets to return his boyhood club, close to his family and for significant reimbursement. Middlesbrough strengthen their push for automatic promotion after losing out to Norwich at the play-off final last year by getting one of the Premier League’s most creative performers from last season. Good business for everyone involved.