Stewart Downing completes move to Middlesbrough
Winger Stewart Downing has rejoined former club Middlesbrough on a four-year deal from West Ham.
Downing drops down from the Premier League to rejoin his hometown club, who were beaten by Norwich in the Championship playoff final at Wembley in May.
The 30-year-old England international played almost 250 games for Boro during an eight-year spell before leaving for Aston Villa in 2009 and will link up with Aitor Karanka's squad at a preseason training camp in Marbella.
Middlesbrough will pay West Ham £5.5 million over the next three years, according to reports, with the fee jumping to £7m if they are promoted to the Premier League.
Downing, perhaps the highest-profile graduate of the north-east club's famed academy, was left out of the Hammers' squad for their Thursday night Europa League clash with Birkirkara and was pictured arriving for a medical with Boro looking to seal a sensational swoop.
And, with his signature now secured, Karanka is pleased to add a player of Downing's calibre to his squad.
"It's an amazing signing for us. He's more than just a player," the Spaniard told his club's official website. "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."
Downing made his Boro debut during the 2001/02 campaign and spent seven further seasons at the Riverside Stadium before earning a £12million move to Aston Villa in July 2009.
The winger swapped life in the Midlands for Liverpool, who paid £20m for his services, two years later and then headed to West Ham for £5m in August 2013.
Downing moves on after arguably enjoying his best season for the club last term and earning him a recall to the England squad.
"It's a new challenge," Downing told reporters when asked why he decided to return to Middlesbrough. "I had opportunities to join clubs in the Premier League but, in fairness, they weren't offering me anything different in terms of a challenge to West Ham.
"If I stayed at West Ham, the aim would be to try and push into the top half of the table. Last season went pretty well for the club and we finished 12th, next season the aim will be to improve on that.
"Had I gone to another Premier League club from West Ham, the targets would be similar. But at Boro there's a chance to achieve something really special."
Downing will spearhead Boro's bid for promotion from the Championship next season as they look to go one better than last season when they lost the play-off final to Norwich City.
"This is probably the last move I'll make in football so I want to try something I've never done before. It's a great opportunity to help get the club back into the Premier League where they belong," he said.
"Boro were very close to promotion last season and I thought if they need a few more experienced players to help them get over the line I could help."
West Ham manager Slaven Bilic wished Downing well, admitting he had wanted the former England man as part of his squad in the Premier League, even though the Hammers have already brought in Dmitri Payet from Marseille for around £10 million this summer.
"I didn't want him to go, he's a quality English player and I know how hard it is to get the quality ones," he said. "Of course I rate him, I know him from the national team when we played England, and he was brilliant in the first half of last season, so I was counting on him big time, but he told me when we were in Cork that he wanted to go home.
"I tried to persuade him to stay with us, that I was counting on him, but he said 'I like you and everything, but I want to go home. If it was any other club, I would stay here'.
"It is a great opportunity for him. Maybe I could have stopped him, and all that, however it is not what we wanted to do, but he wanted to leave."