DERBY COUNTY have been told to up their offer for Middlesbrough striker Lukas Jutkiewicz.

Derby, who missed out on promotion back to the Premier League by losing to QPR in the play-off final last month, are the front-runners to land the Boro front-man.

But despite offering around the £1m mark, Middlesbrough have told them to increase it if they want to win the race for Jutkiewicz’s signature.

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After a successful loan at Bolton last season, interest in the former Coventry City man has grown and Middlesbrough’s valuation is understood to be over the £1.3m price-tag they paid for him in January 2012.

Jutkiewicz’s stay on Teesside has had its ups and downs and Middlesbrough are prepared to let him go this summer provided the deal suits them.

Aitor Karanka is keen to have different options in attack next season and raising some money by selling Jutkiewicz would boost his cause.

As revealed in The Northern Echo at the start of the week, a deal is already in place that will see Marvin Emnes join Swansea City for a little over £1m and Middlesbrough are just awaiting Swans chairman Huw Jenkins to finalise things at his end.

Derby have made their initial move for Jutkiewicz and are expected to return with an improved offer, with Steve McClaren keen to take the ex-Southampton and Everton man to Pride Park. Bolton, Wolves and Wigan are also interested.

If Middlesbrough can raise well in excess of £2m for both players it would lessen the need to listen to offers for others and strengthen Karanka’s hand in trying to bring in his own men.

SUNDERLAND have confirmed they will play three games in Portugal next month as part of preparations for the Premier League season.

Spanish side Real Betis are claiming to have arranged a friendly with the Black Cats, although Sunderland are yet to reveal the identity of all of their opponents while they are in the Algarve.

Gus Poyet’s team will have a match on Tuesday, July 29 at the Estádio Municipal de Albufeira. The following evening they will face Europa League finalists Benfica in a special Guadiana Tourneo one-off game at the Estádio Municipal de Portimão, 8.45pm kick-off.

Sunderland will complete the stay in Portugal by taking on top-flight opposition side Vitória Setúbal at the Estádio Municipal de Albufeira at 8pm local time.

ITALIAN clubs AC Milan and Roma have distanced themselves from a move for Davide Santon after Newcastle United refused to budge over the fee.

It is not clear how much the Magpies have been demanding for the former Inter defender, although it could be around double the £5.3m paid for him in 2011.

Both Milan and Roma have expressed an interest in taking him back to Italy, but neither are prepared pay the sort of figures being asked for the 23-year-old and they are exploring alternative options to sign.