Will Daniel Ayala sign for Leeds United? What next for Harold Moukoudi? Middlesbrough transfer rumours assessed
The Championship season isn’t set to resume until later this month – yet transfer speculation has been rife in recent weeks.
A handful of Middlesbrough players have been linked with moves away from the Riverside, with old rumours resurfacing and fresh reports rising to the fore.
We take a closer look at some of the latest gossip which has been lingering on Teesside.
Daniel Ayala to Leeds
This one has been rumbling on since the end of last year – and it’s little surprise given the defender is out of contract this summer.
Reports emerged this week that Leeds are ‘set to sign’ Ayala ahead of next season - whenever that is - yet it’s hard to believe anything is agreed at this stage given the current situation.
For starters, Leeds may be playing in the Premier League next campaign and could be looking at a higher calibre of players.
Yes Ayala has more than proved himself at Championship level, yet the Spaniard, 29, has just 26 Premier League appearances and a worrying injury record.
That’s not to say Leeds wouldn’t be interested in Ayala, especially if he’s available on a free and the Whites aren’t able to re-sign on-loan Brighton defender Ben White.
Regardless of Leeds’ interest, several Championship clubs will surely be monitoring the defender’s situation, given the centre-back’s spell on Teesside
The towering centre-back was a key member of Aitor Karanka’s promotion-winning side in 2016 and has remained a valuable player since Boro’s return to the Championship.
This season, Ayala has started seven of the Teessiders’ nine league wins, and the side’s form tailed off dramatically following the defender’s ankle injury at Preston on New Year’s Day.
Ayala hasn’t played since the game at Deepdale, with the timescale of his injury repeatedly being stretched.
So what are the chances of Ayala staying at the Riverside?
For that to happen, it’s clear the centre-back would have to accept reduced terms. His last contract was signed when Boro were in the Premier League and the club have been forced to cut their costs since then.
The Teessiders were in talks with Ayala at the start of this year, yet negotiations stalled before the season was suspended.
Still, the Spaniard returned to training at Rockliffe and will be expected to play a part once the campaign resumes.
Last month Ayala’s wife Hannah said on social media that her husband’s future was still up in the air, suggesting the defender could yet sign a new deal on Teesside.
Back in January, the centre-back also expressed his desire to stay in the North East following a seven-year spell in the area.
Harold Moukoudi’s future
Another defender who could be in demand this summer is strapping centre-back Harold Moukoudi.
Boro boss Jonathan Woodgate has repeatedly praised the 22-year-old after signing the Cameroon international on loan from French club Saint-Etienne in January.
Since then, Moukoudi has shown his vast potential, yet it also feels like we haven’t seen the best of him.
On his debut against Brentford, the 6’3 defender did well to keep in-form striker Ollie Watkins on the fringes for most of the game, yet Boro went on to lose the game 3-2.
After that, while it wasn’t entirely his fault, Moukoudi scored an own goal in a 2-2 draw at Wigan as Boro’s performances regressed at an alarming rate.
Yet Moukoudi appeared to be settling in England before the season was stopped, combining his raw strength and ability with better decision making and assurance.
If the opportunity arises, it seems Boro would jump at the chance to sign Moukoudi permanently, especially as several of the club’s centre-back options, Ayala, Ryan Shotton and George Friend, are nearing the end of their contracts.
But while Saint-Etienne appear willing to let the defender go, reports in France have claimed the centre-back has plenty of suitors, and is valued at around £9million.
That would have priced Boro out of a deal even before the coronavirus pandemic. If a bidding war breaks out, it will be hard for the Teessiders to compete.
It will be interesting to see just how much Woodgate values Moukoudi when the season resumes and everyone is fit again.
Dael Fry and Ayala were both out injured when the Cameroon international arrived but should be available again when games restart.
Ryan Shotton wanted by Turkish giants
A report from Turkish sports paper Takvim that will have certainly raised a few eyebrows.
It was claimed earlier this week that Shotton is a shock target for European giants Besiktas - with the Super Lig club impressed by the defender’s versatility.
Like Ayala, Shotton, 31, is one of the seven Boro players who will see their contract expire at the end of this month, but will be allowed to complete the season when it resumes.
It seems unlikely Shotton will be offered a new deal, though, especially as Boro are looking to build for the future, while the defender has also missed a large part of the campaign through injury.
Shotton’s professionalism has been praised by Woodgate, though, after the Boro boss was forced to use the defender in an unnatural left-back position at Birmingham in October.
After returning from injury in February, Shotton had also produced some admirable performances before the campaign was halted three months ago.
His experience could prove valuable when the season restarts, especially with Boro just two points above the Championship relegation zone.
Whether the interest from Turkey is genuine remains to be seen.