Middlesbrough close in on striker swoop

Patrick BamfordPatrick Bamford
Patrick Bamford
Middlesbrough are closing in on the signing of another Spanish striker called Kike, admits manager Aitor Karanka.

Boro have been keeping tabs on Enrique ‘Kike’ Sola, with interest in the Athletic Bilbao forward stepping up since the beginning of the week.

As Championship leaders Boro beat Brentford 1-0 on Tuesday to open up an eight point gap to third-place Hull City, Sola should have been in the Bilbao squad against Villarreal.

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Instead, though, Bilbao withdrew the 29-year-old from the squad, in anticipation of talks with the Teessiders.

Sola has scored three times in 10 games this season and would provide additional options up front, with David Nugent currently the favoured option over Kike, who joined in the summer of 2014.

“Do you believe the Spanish press?” Karanka joked when asked about Sola, before admitting: “It’s true we’re following him.

“He’s a good player but I prefer to speak about the players who are here now.

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“He plays up front, he can play as a striker, as a second striker, as a number 10. We have to think, we have to know if he wants to come here.

“It’s another one in the list. All of them in the list are there to improve the team.

“There’s a lot of people in the club working on them (transfers).”

Sola has a reported €30m buyout clause in his contract, so Boro – as Karanka hinted – would be looking to loan the Spaniard, as opposed to signing him.

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Another forward linked with Boro is Patrick Bamford, who scored 19 goals on loan last season. Bamford cut short a loan spell at Crystal Palace this season to return to Chelsea, where Blues boss Guus Hiddink wants him to stay with the Under-21s.

“He hardly played at Palace so that’s why he has to prove himself,” Hiddink said.

“He has to make a step because he didn’t play so much over there. For the moment, he will stay with the Under-21s.

“To be honest, I have not seen so much (of Bamford playing). I didn’t have the opportunity to see him much in the Palace games on video.”

Karanka claimed last month that the “door is always open” for Bamford to return to Teesside.