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Stewart Downing leaves Hammers for Middlesbrough homecoming

Championship club Middlesbrough have announced the impressive capture of England international Stewart Downing on a four-year deal from West Ham United for a £5m fee, though that could rise to £7m should the Teesside team be promoted to the Premier League, which is an 11/4 chance with Coral.

“It’s great to be back home,” Downing told Boro’s official website. “I always said I wanted to come back to this club and I’m delighted the chance has now come. This is a good time to be coming back to Boro, and hopefully I can enjoy another four to five years playing at the top.

“This is a Premier League club with a really good team and they were so unlucky to lose out on promotion last season. It would be the biggest achievement of my career if I could help us get back into the Premier League. I’ve spoken to [head coach] Aitor Karanka and I can’t wait to pull on a Boro shirt again.

“There were other options on the table but it was moving back to Boro that really appealed to me. I can see what a good team they have and I’m as ambitious as ever to help this club succeed.”

“It’s an amazing signing for us. He’s more than just a player,” Middlesbrough boss Karanka added. “Nobody expected him to come here, but he wants to be here, and is completely committed to the club and the team. He is a very good person and I’m excited to work with him.”

The move is a homecoming for Downing who, at 30, will presumably finish his playing days with his boyhood club for with whom he previously enjoyed over 200 outings. Boro born and bred, the playmaker began his career at The Riverside after progressing through their youth ranks, before going on to represent Sunderland, Aston Villa, Liverpool and West Ham.

Despite being a key component in the Hammers’ strong start to last season under former coach Sam Allardyce, excelling at the tip of a diamond formation and earning a recall to the England camp, Downing has decided to drop down a tier.

How this will impact his immediate international future remains to be seen, but the winger, who can play anywhere across attacking midfield positions, reportedly turned down an offer from another former side in Sunderland, who are still toiling in the top flight.

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New Hammers signing Dimitri Payet is expected to take over playmaking duties from Downing at Upton Park, though he has big shoes to fill, as the flexible attacker, renowned for pinpoint crosses, contributed six strikes and eight assists in the league last term.

Capped an impressive 35 times for the Three Lions, Downing’s Riverside return can be considered a coup for Middlesbrough, who narrowly missed out on Premier League promotion after being defeated by Norwich City in the Championship play-off final.

Former Real Madrid assistant coach Aitor Karanka has proven a success as the Teessiders’ tactician so far but, needs to acquire additional spark in attack to push for promotion, where Downing can still provide his hometown team with the benefit of his experience. Boro are 8/1 second-favourites to win the Championship outright.