"A £6 million bid for Alan Smith was apparently deemed acceptable to Manchester United, although it seems that the England international was less agreeable to the deal"
With a season in charge under his belt, Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate is now looking to take the club to the next level with a revamp of the squad that he inherited from Steve McClaren. According to the estimable Steve Gibson, the onus now is on “flair, pace and strength”, with the belief that they “have the chance of pulling off one or two spectacular signings”.
The priorities for Southgate would appear to be in attack, where the departure of Mark Viduka has already deprived him of one regular goalscorer, while rumours continue to circulate surrounding the future of Yakubu Aiyegbeni. Were the Nigerian international also to depart, Middlesbrough would look decidedly lightweight in terms of their goal threat, even allowing for the signings of Jeremie Aliadiere and Tuncay Sanli (the latter perhaps coming under the aforementioned category of “spectacular signings”?).
A £6 million bid for Alan Smith was apparently deemed acceptable to Manchester United, although it seems that the England international was less agreeable to the deal. With Sir Alex Ferguson said to be looking for a new striker, it would appear that Smith’s days at Old Trafford are numbered, so a deal could yet materialise. Whether any combination of Smith, Tuncay, Aliadiere and Lee Dong-Gook would be capable of compensating for the combined loss of Viduka and Yakubu in terms of goals has to be open to serious doubt. Jermain Defoe or Nicolas Anelka would probably be capable of filling the void, but whether either would fancy a move to Boro is another thing.
Right-back is another area that Southgate has been looking to strengthen, with the two names apparently in the frame at present being Charlton Athletic’s Luke Young and AZ Alkmaar’s Icelandic international, Gretar Steinsson. The latter would appear the more likely as things stand, with the recently announced pre-season game with the Dutch side perhaps being arranged as part of an imminent deal.
Southgate is also looking for greater quality further forward on the right-flank and his luck could just be in were he make a quick move for Swedish international Christian Wilhelmsson, whose proposed move to Roma appears to have fallen through after his loan deal from Nantes for the second-half of last season. With Nantes having been relegated from Ligue 1 in France, both club and player are likely to be keen to do business. West Bromwich Albion’s Zoltan Gera is another long-term target that would fit the bill. A move for Tuncay’s countryman, Trabzonspor’s Gokdeniz Karadeniz has fallen through after Boro were unable to reach agreement with his club.
In midfield, Portsmouth’s Gary O’Neil has been mentioned as a possible target, with Pompey’s interest in Yakubu leading to speculation of a player-plus-cash deal. With Manchester City now seemingly in pole position for the striker, the chances of luring O’Neil to the Riverside look remote. Being Middlesbrough, there is also the obligatory link with a Brazilian player. Thiago Motta, surplus to requirements at Barcelona, being the most recent.
Right-back aside the defence looks reasonably solid, especially now that Jonathan Woodgate has been brought in on a permanent basis. The future of goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer seems less clear, so a move for Craig Gordon at Hearts would seem sensible.
The key to Boro’s season looks largely dependent on the future of Yakubu. If he stays, Southgate has a proven Premiership scorer to rely on. Should he move on, Boro will need to move quickly to secure a suitable replacement. With no such player capable of filling that role currently on the books, the hunt will be on for another big name recruit.