Middlesbrough manager Aitor Karanka admits it could be harder for old friend Jose Mourinho to help him out this season as they are now both in charge of Premier League clubs.
The 42-year-old Spaniard will take charge of his first English top-flight game on Saturday when he sends his promoted side into battle with Stoke at the Riverside Stadium.
A day later, Manchester United counterpart Mourinho, who he worked under during their time together at Real Madrid, will be in the dugout at Bournemouth on his return to the Premier League.
The Portuguese has been a regular source of advice and affirmation since Karanka launched his coaching career on Teesside two and a half years ago, but while they remain close, the Boro boss is not expecting many tips this time around.
Karanka said with a smile: “We are friends and that’s the most important thing. When you are friends, you are always trying to help your friend.
“But now we are playing for the same – not the same, but in the same league…
“I learnt a lot with him and I wish him all the best this season – except when he plays against Middlesbrough.”
AK: "Jose [Mourinho] has always been a friend, and I wish him all the best this season – except when he plays Middlesbrough."
— Middlesbrough FC (@Boro) August 11, 2016
Stoke’s visit to the north-east will see Boro back among the big boys for the first time in seven years, something which seemed a distant prospect the day in November 2013 when Karanka accepted chairman Steve Gibson’s offer to step into management in his own right.
Asked if it was a long-held dream to work in the Premier League, he said: “Of course. When I came here two and a half years ago, the team was two or three points above the relegation positions and now for everybody it’s a dream, so imagine for me as a coach!
“It’s my first experience, so let the dream keep going.”
Karanka is aware of his relative inexperience but is relishing the prospect of going head to head with the likes of Mourinho, Pep Guardiola, Antonio Conte and Jurgen Klopp.
But he is also conscious of what it means to the whole town to have secured a return to the top flight.
He said: “It’s a big challenge for me, but I think it’s a good challenge for the football club too because after seven years, the club is in the Premier League, it is on the Premier League map and for that reason everybody is going to watch Middlesbrough playing every Saturday.”
Meanwhile, Karanka remained tight-lipped on the club’s ongoing pursuit of Cardiff full-back Fabio da Silva with a deal understood to be close.