Tony Pulis wished his “best buddy” Adama Traore all the best for his next adventure as Middlesbrough proved there can be life after the Spanish flyer by thrashing Sheffield United 3-0 at the Riverside.
Incisive winger Traore, absent last night, is set to join ambitious Premier League newcomers Wolves – bad news for Boro fans who have seen key men Ben Gibson and Patrick Bamford sold in the last week.
Pulis is trying to sign “quality players” before tomorrow’s transfer deadline but the tools already at his disposal showed that Boro can be a force in the Sky Bet Championship, irrespective of any incomings.
North-east talent Lewis Wing provided assists from corners for Martin Braithwaite, who looked to be on his way out earlier in the year, and then imposing new defensive recruit Aden Flint, with veteran Stewart Downing chipping in with a third goal to complete the rout inside 25 minutes.
Pulis stopped short of confirming that former Aston Villa and Barcelona man Traore - essential to Boro’s run to the last season’s play-offs - had completed his move to Molineux, but revealed he has said goodbye to the 22-year-old, whose sale will reportedly net Boro £18million.
The former Stoke boss said: “Adama was my best buddy so to lose him is really difficult.
“When I came to the club he looked a little bit sullen and didn’t have any confidence, but at the end he played with a smile on his face and excited a lot of people.
“I hope the supporters understand that ambition to get in the Premier League. You could say, ‘stay here and get us in the Premier League’ but that’s not the way the world works.
“I wish the two of them (Traore and Gibson) all the best. I had a chat with Gibbo yesterday and a good chat with Adama and I hope they’re both successful at their new clubs.
“We did offer Adama a contract, a very good contract, but he wants to stretch himself.”
Boro have been linked with the likes of Tom Huddlestone, Yannick Bolasie and Martyn Waghorn but in Newton Aycliffe-born midfielder Wing – signed quietly from non-league Shildon last year – they may have a talent who can help soothe any disappointment Pulis might feel if his main transfer targets are not lured to Teesside.
“I was delighted with Wingy, but I thought there were a lot of players who played really well. He’s a local boy and we get as many local lads through as we possibly can,” said Pulis.
“We’ve got targets and I’ll be really disappointed if we don’t get them but that’s the way I am and I’d rather bring in quality players.”
United manager Chris Wilder highlighted a lack of application from his Blades, who were effectively beaten with less an a quarter of the match gone.
He said: “They had two corners and scored from them to go 2-0 up and we’re chasing the game.
“I think when you come to places like the Riverside, with the quality they’ve got, if you hand out goals like we have in the first 20 minutes... the organisation and the application is not as big as the desire from their players to score.
“They’ve got some very good players to start with before we give them a handout of two goals.”