PRIOR to last season, Chuba Akpom had scored just 30 league goals in his entire career. He then hit 28 in an unforgettable campaign and Boro pocketed more than £12m for him.

Prior to this season, Morgan Rogers had made just 37 league starts, more than half of which came in League One. Before December, Rogers had started only six Championship games for Boro. He's just left in a deal worth a total of £16m.

Both exits clearly owe a huge amount to the coaching ability of Michael Carrick and his Middlesbrough staff, but the Rogers move is also a major success story for the scouting and recruitment team. Boro don't want to lose their best players but the recent club accounts, released last month, highlighted the importance of trading and to pocket such a profit on a player who cost just over £1m six months ago and couldn't get in the team a month ago is remarkable business.

That's the model. Identify and sign - for a modest fee - young untapped talent with big potential. Boro then back themselves - and the successful evidence is quickly stacking up - to nurture the best out of these players.

The ultimate aim, clearly, is for these players to bring Premier League football back to the Riverside, but if top flight clubs come knocking and meet the asking price - as Villa did at the fourth time of asking with Rogers- then Boro won't stand in their way. Integral in making the model work is succession planning. Disappointment at losing a key player is eased by the fact the replacement is already in the building.

The Rockliffe recruitment team are understood to have been inundated with messages from agents in recent days alerting them to the possibility of signing their clients, all wingers and attacking midfielders. clearly of the belief that Boro would be scrambling around in the final days of the window looking for a replacement for Rogers. And yet that box was ticked early this month when Finn Azaz joined the club.

Azaz wasn't signed with the expectation that Rogers would depart. The Aston Villa forward had been long tracked and watched in person by Boro scouts on several occasions during the first half of the season when he was on loan at Plymouth. Had Boro not pounced in January, they'd have missed out on a player who was interesting several other Championship clubs.


Rogers was actually of interest to Boro last January but a year ago it was deemed the timing wasn't right to make a move. He ended up on loan at Blackpool, where Boro watched him closely with a summer move in mind.

The player himself got at Boro what he craved: confidence. That's credit to the work of the coaching team given his relatively slow start, when he was used up-front due to Boro's striker shortage. The coaching team knew key to unlocking Rogers' potential was making sure he believed in himself. It was new-found self-belief that helped to fuel Akpom's record-breaking charge last season.

Where confidence was concerned, the Carabao Cup was a god-send.

“The League Cup was important for us in that respect," admitted Carrick last month.

"At points of the season between certain games we’ve been able to play certain players, to give us a little boost or for the boys to get minutes. Morgan scored some big goals through that run. Morgan has certainly benefitted from that."

Carrick talked at length about Rogers in his Rockliffe press conference on Thursday, January 18.

"He’s got stronger as the season has gone on, he’s had a big impact, created chances, penetration, he’s scored really important goals for us. I think you can see him growing," he said.

“At 21 you’re still young in many ways, though 21 year-olds now are a lot more grown up than I probably was. But, yeah, you’re still so young, you can’t expect them to be the finished article, the answer. To be consistent is not far off impossible, that’s the stage they’re at, they’re learning, finding out about themselves, what works, what doesn’t.

“That’s great for us because we’re here to guide them and develop them, let them feel comfortable with making a mistake, because you find out what your limits are.  Until you push your limits you’re going to play within yourself. Consistency’s important through game after game and that’s the challenge for any younger player, Morgan, Hayden, whoever it may be. It about putting it all together over a period of time because we know what they’re capable of in moments."

Little did Carrick know when he was speaking to the media that day that just hours later a bid from Aston Villa would land for Rogers. There'd been no indications of interest or that an offer was imminent. Indeed, earlier that day Rogers had sat down for one-to-one interview with the Athletic.

Boro dismissed that first bid immediately and Villa would fail with two further offers before they got their man.

“We analysed him and follow him with a scout then as well when we played against Middlesbrough,” said Unai Emery this week.

“He is a young player with potential and he can start his new chapter here. Hopefully he can progress here like we think he will do.”

He progressed an awful lot in a very short space of time at Boro. And he leaves on good terms.

"I want to thank everyone associated with Boro for a memorable time," he wrote on social media after his exit was confirmed.

"To the players, the staff and also you fans for supporting me the short time I’ve been here! I’ll always be grateful for the fact I got to represent such an amazing club. I hope the club gets back to where it belongs real soon."