Middlesbrough's Britt Assombalonga responds to transfer speculation following reported interest from Celtic, Fulham and Sheffield United
It may have only been a pre-season friendly but Middlesbrough striker Britt Assombalonga could hardly stop smiling following his hat-trick at Salford on Tuesday night.
The 26-year-old appears refreshed following his extended break to recover from the Africa Cup of Nations.
It’s also been a summer of speculation for the DR Congo international, with Celtic, Fulham, Sheffield United and others reportedly interested in the striker.
Yet the rapport between Assombalonga and Boro boss Jonathan Woodgate appears strong, with the new head coach adopting an empathetic and considerate approach with his players.
When asked about the transfer speculation and if he feels happy at Boro, Assombalonga said: “Everything seems good. I was excited to come back to training. I had my time off after the African Cup of Nations, it was good to spend time with my family and have a little mental break.
“It’s nice the manager seems to believe in me. I have had periods where managers really believe in me before, it’s a nice feeling and good to be back.
“With me it is about giving a person confidence. Sometimes someone just needs that little push to get the best out of them.”
Despite not always being first choice under previous manager Tony Pulis, Assombalonga still finished Boro’s top scorer with 14 league goals last season.
And with Woodgate keen to play a more attacking brand of football this term, the striker is likely to be one of the first names on the team sheet.
“Hopefully I will get more goals,” laughed Assombalonga when asked about last season’s frustrations. “Last season was last season, I still managed to get the goals, I wanted more but that’s life. I just want to try to better that this season.”
Assombalonga will certainly improve on last campaign’s tally if he plays like he did at the Peninsula Stadium on Tuesday, with his second goal, a first-time volley from just inside the area, the pick of the bunch.
But was it one of the best goals of the striker’s career so far?
“That goal at Salford wasn’t my best,” he smiled. “I had one at Peterborough outside the box against Bristol City. It was nice that one.”