CHELSEA youngster Kenneth Omeruo has emerged as a strong contender to become Aitor Karanka’s first signing of the January transfer window.

The 20-year-old defender, capable of playing right-back or centre-back, is expecting to be on Teesside this weekend to finalise a loan move from Stamford Bridge.

Omeruo, a Nigerian international, was linked with a move to the Riverside during Tony Mowbray’s time in charge but a deal could be concluded under Karanka’s watch.

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The highly-rated player has been told he needs to be playing regularly to make his country’s World Cup squad and spending the rest of the campaign at Middlesbrough is seen as an opportunity to do just that.

Karanka, whose side face Hull City today in the FA Cup, is keen to make quick progress on the transfer front and has also been linked with other Blues players such as Patrick Bamford, Nathaniel Chalobah and Nathan Ake.

Omeruo spent a season and a half on loan with Dutch club ADO Den Haag but Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho is keen to see him gain greater experience in English football and will receive regular updates from his former assistant, Karanka.

Middlesbrough are considering a fresh move for Belgian striker Jelle Vossen, who Mowbray tried to sign in the close-season. Manchester City defender Dedryck Boyata was also linked with a loan switch last night.

There are also likely to be departures in the coming weeks and out-of-favour Belgian midfielder Faris Haroun is attracting interest from Zulte Waregem.