MIDDLESBROUGH are weighing up right-back options to fill the void left by this week’s departure of Jozsef Varga and are one of a number of clubs monitoring former England Under-21 international Richard Stearman.

The Wolves defender is set to become a free agent at the end of next month when his contract at Molineux expires and he is in no rush to decide his future.

Sources in the Midlands claim there has previously been Premier League interest expressed in him and Wolves are also keen to tie him down to a new contract after sealing promotion from League One.

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But Middlesbrough have identified him as a contender to boost Aitor Karanka’s options across his backline, knowing that Stearman can operate centrally or as a full-back.

Boro would be able to compete with the likes of Wolves on what he can be potentially offered, but if tentative Premier League interest increases then it could be that Football League clubs are priced out of a move.

Stearman, 26, started his career at Leicester City and has previously attracted interest from Sunderland when Mick McCarthy was in charge before eventually joining Wolves in 2008 after the Foxes’ relegation from the Championship.

He did spend part of last season on loan at Ipswich Town, where he was reunited with his former Wolves boss McCarthy, but then he became a more prominent part of Kenny Jackett’s team at Molineux during this season’s promotion winning campaign.

Karanka is on the look-out for a new full-back after turning down the option to buy Hungarian Varga on a permanent basis and as a free agent Stearman is one of a number under consideration.

Varga had hoped to stay on Teesside beyond his season-long loan from Debrecen but it was decided in the corridors of power at Rockliffe Park that the £500,000 fee – on top of an earlier loan fee – could be best served in other ways to boost the squad.

Defensively Middlesbrough majorly improved after Karanka succeeded Tony Mowbray last October. As things stand, however, the Spaniard has lost Kenneth Omeruo, Varga, Frazer Richardson and Stuart Parnaby from the list of defenders he had to call on since the final day win at Yeovil.

He would like to bring Omeruo back on a further loan from Chelsea next season, although his stock could well rise if he has a successful World Cup with Nigeria in Brazil.

Karanka is keen to land a new right-back and left-back, with the latter being targeted to provide more competition down that flank for George Friend.