Middlesbrough FC transfer Q&A: Financial Fair Play restrictions, Ben Gibson and potential signings discussed
Middlesbrough have just a couple more days to complete their January transfer business, with the Teessiders still looking to strengthen their squad before Friday’s 11pm deadline.
In this week’s transfer Q&A, our Boro writer Joe Nicholson answers questions on Financial Fair Play restrictions, the Teessiders’ search for another centre-back and potential departures at the Riverside.
How many signings will Middlesbrough make before Friday’s deadline?
It’s no secret Boro are looking to sign another centre-back this month and have been tracking several targets in recent weeks.
Head coach Jonathan Woodgate recently said he’s still looking to make ‘one or two’ more signings before the end of the month so there could be multiple arrivals before the close of play on Friday.
Boro now look well stocked up front following the loan arrival of Lukas Nmecha from Manchester City and Rudy Gestede’s return from injury.
Along with Ashley Fletcher and Britt Assombalonga, who is expected to return from an ankle injury, the Teessiders now have four capable strikers at their disposal.
If Boro are looking to bring in another player it’s likely they would be looking at another wide player, possibly someone who can operate at right wing-back to cover for Djed Spence.
The Teessiders have found success operating with a back three over the last month, while Spence, 19, has started the side’s last nine games in a demanding position.
If Boro do sign another centre-back, Jonny Howson could move to the right flank, yet it’s still an area which needs strengthening with full-back Anfernee Dijksteel still sidelined with a long-term knee injury.
Why haven’t Boro spent much money this season?
It was always likely that Boro would be shopping in the loan market this month due to the club’s financial restrictions.
Woodgate has mentioned the league’s Financial Fair Play regulations on more than one occasion this season and it’s clear the Teessiders aren’t the wealthiest club in the Championship.
Boro spent around £50million following their relegation from the Premier League in 2017 and it seems like they have been trying to balance the books ever since.
The EFL’s Profitability and Sustainability rules allow clubs to make up to a £39million loss over a rolling three-year period.
That doesn’t just include transfers fees, yet in and outgoings will play a significant part in clubs’ profit and loss figures.
Boro have also been restricted after losing their Premier League parachute payments last summer.
Clubs that have spent just one season in the top flight before returning to the second tier, like Boro, are entitled to just two payments spread over two seasons.
The aforementioned factors are just some of the reasons why Boro changed their transfer policy in the summer.
There is now more of an emphasis to sign younger players who can increase in value rather than bringing players in for inflated fees.
That was apparent in the summer, and while outfield signings Dijksteel, Marc Bola and Marcus Browne have struggled to adapt to the Championship, there is still time for them to improve.
Signing players in January represents even more of a risk as clubs are usually asked to pay a higher fees due to unforeseen circumstances.
That is why loan signings are a more viable option right now, while Boro were also able to use some of the Darren Randolph money to sign goalkeeper Dejan Stojanovic as a replacement.
Is there any chance Ben Gibson could re-sign for Boro before the deadline?
That decision appears to rest with his current club Burnley.
Boro’s defensive issues would see Gibson walk straight into the Teessiders’ starting XI, while the player will surely be keen to play first-team football again after making just one appearance for the Clarets this season.
Watford have reportedly seen a bid rejected for Gibson, while Fulham and Huddersfield have also been credited with an interest in the player.
It seems Burnley are reluctant to let the player leave, though, unless the Clarets can find a replacement for the 27-year-old.
Gibson has acted professionally since his move to Turf Moor but will surely want to prevent his career stagnating after a frustrating 18 months.
Boro wouldn’t be able to match Watford financially due to the Hornets’ Premier League status, yet a return to his boyhood club may still appeal to Gibson.
Are Boro confident of keeping their best players this month?
Players will inevitably be linked with moves elsewhere, yet any high-profile outgoings are looking less and less likely.
Britt Assombalonga was said to be attracting interest from Leeds and Aston Villa, yet a move always seemed unlikely given the striker is still recovering from injury.
Both clubs have since signed other strikers and appear content with their January business in that department.
Woodgate also made it clear defender Dael Fry isn’t for sale and has said the club are under no pressure to sell before the end of the month.
There is also some uncertainty about the players who will see their contracts expire this summer, yet the likes of Daniel Ayala and Jonny Howson appear keen to stay.
Earlier this month, Woodgate said young striker Stephen Walker, 19, will be allowed to leave on loan to gain more game time, yet nothing appears forthcoming.