DANIEL AYALA’S loan from Norwich City ended yesterday evening, but Middlesbrough remain hopeful of agreeing a new deal that will see the centre-half available for tomorrow’s game with Championship leaders Leicester City.
Boro officials have held a series of discussions with their counterparts at Carrow Road, but while Richie Smallwood, Luke Williams and Adam Reach all agreed deals that saw them leave on loan yesterday, with Andy Halliday set to move to Blackpool shortly, there has not been a breakthrough in talks over Ayala’s future.
Having been impressed with the 23-year-old’s performances since joining in October, the Boro hierarchy would prefer to sign Ayala on a permanent basis. They are close to agreeing a fee of around £500,000, but have been unable to agree the personal terms of a potential long-term deal.
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All parties could agree a new loan deal to run to the end of the season, but with Norwich willing to sell Ayala provided an agreement can be reached, it is hoped a resolution over a permanent deal is still possible.
“We will be working until the last moment,” said Karanka. “Everyone knows how important Daniel is for the team at the moment. He is Spanish, and for me, it is sometimes more comfortable for me to explain things to him first.
“He is important for the team, and the club know that he is an important player. But we have another 24 players and the club will not be doing crazy things to keep him. Before he came, he was not playing for Norwich, and now he is playing. But we will have to see what happens.”
Ayala’s future will not be determined by what happens to Rhys Williams this month, despite the Australian having been the subject of inquiries from both Swansea City and Celtic.
Boro chief executive Neil Bausor was investigating the possibility of a permanent deal for Ayala long before Williams’ position became the subject of such fevered debate, and it is not a case of having to sell one defender in order to sign another.
Nevertheless, Swansea are expected to table a formal offer for Williams before the transfer window closes, and Bausor and chairman Steve Gibson will have to decide whether to accept around £1.5m for the versatile 25-year-old.
Karanka insists he will continue to select Williams despite the ongoing speculation, but his latest comments hardly suggested he would be moving heaven and earth in an attempt to keep him.
“The club is working on a number of things,” he said. “Rhys is our player at the moment, and that is the only way I am thinking of things. If there is a moment when Rhys goes, then he goes.
“But until then, if he is here as my player then he will be expected to play as he has been doing in the last few games. Has there been any bids for him? No. At the moment, I only think of him and Middlesbrough.”
While Williams is expected to be in the squad that travels to the King Power Stadium tomorrow, neither Nathaniel Chalobah nor Kenneth Omeruo will be travelling to Leicester.
Omeruo has now spent two weeks training with Boro’s first-team squad, with Chalobah having a full week’s training under his belt, and it had been expected that the duo would at least be on the bench tomorrow.
However, Karanka feels it is still too early to introduce them to the fray, and has warned both Chelsea loanees they could have a lengthy wait before they are deemed ready for action.
“They will not be in the squad because they are not ready,” he said. “Nathaniel has only been here for seven days. Kenneth has been here a little bit more but that is not really long enough to get to know my philosophy. The team is playing very well right now and they will have to wait for their opportunity.”
There were three confirmed departures yesterday, with Smallwood’s season-long loan to League One Rotherham United the biggest surprise.
The Dormanstown midfielder has made nine Championship starts this season, and came off the bench in the second half of last weekend’s win over Charlton, but it appears as though Chalobah’s arrival has made him surplus to requirements.
Adam Reach has joined League One Bradford City for a month after spending three months with Shrewsbury earlier in the season, while Luke Williams has teamed up with former Boro coach Colin Cooper at Hartlepool United.
“The first two months have been very difficult because there have been times when I have been training with 31 players, and that is too many,” said Karanka. “It is difficult to get to know the players in training if you are not able to properly watch them play.
“That is why Luke, Adam and Richie have gone on loan. They are young players, and are potential players for the team. But for now, I prefer that they play.”
The same is true of Halliday, and the Scotsman is expected to become one of Barry Ferguson’s first loan signings provided the former Rangers and Scotland skipper is installed as Paul Ince’s successor at Blackpool.