Selling Aden Flint to Cardiff City makes sense but leaves Middlesbrough worryingly short in defence
In the long term, Middlesbrough’s decision to sell towering centre-back Aden Flint looks like a sensible move.
The 30-year-old defender completed his move to Cardiff City on Friday afternoon, with Boro set to recoup most of the reported £7million they spent on the player a year ago.
Back then, Flint arrived at the Riverside as one of the Championship’s most highly-rated centre-backs, following an impressive season with Bristol City in which he scored nine goals in all competitions.
But despite making 39 league appearances in the heart of Boro’s rearguard last campaign, many supporters weren’t convinced by Flint during his time at the Riverside.
The defender’s height and aerial prowess did prove useful in his own penalty area, yet, at the other end of the pitch, he scored an underwhelming one goal all season.
Flint’s distribution and ability on the ball also came under scrutiny, which would have been an issue under new head coach Jonathan Woodgate.
Woodgate is keen to play a passing, possession-based style of football at Boro and, during the recent pre-season friendlies against Gateshead and Hartlepool, it was clear Flint and centre-back partner Ryan Shotton weren’t comfortable when trying to play out from the back.
But where does Flint’s departure leave the Teessiders?
With Woodgate likely to play a back four next season, there’s a good chance Daniel Ayala and Dael Fry could form a decent partnership. However, with both players out injured, Boro could be left with a defensive dilemma.
Woodgate is hopeful the pair will return in time for his side’s Championship opener against Luton on August 2 but there will be doubts.
Boro’s other centre-back options include Shotton, youngsters Nathan Wood and Sam Stubbs and George Friend – who is also recovering from an injury setback he picked up last campaign.
Flint may not have fitted into Woodgate’s new-look side but his departure does leave Boro worryingly short at the back – similar to when Danny Batth left the club in January and wasn’t replaced.
Whether the Teessiders dip into the loan market or sign someone permanently, they’ll need to bolster their defensive options in the next few weeks.