MIDDLESBROUGH could face competition from the Premier League for Kenneth Omeruo with Hull City weighing up a move for the defender.
Boro boss Aitor Karanka revealed last week he was confident of bringing the 20-year-old back to the Riverside after impressing on loan during the second half of last season.
However, it is understood Hull City are also interested and they could move into pole position to sign him with the offer of Premier League and Europa League football.
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The Nigeria international, granted extra time off to recover from his World Cup exerts, signed a new four-year deal with Chelsea in May, but Blues boss Jose Mourinho is keen to loan him out again.
Karanka has kept in contact with Omeruo throughout the summer and revealed the centre-back had told him he wanted to return to Teesside.
That could change, though, and Boro's head coach admitted the player’s performances at the World Cup had created a risk of other clubs becoming interested.
Hull are in talks to sign Tottenham’s Michael Dawson, but they are wary of West Ham making a move.
Boro hope Karanka’s links with Mourinho can play a part in landing the highly-rated youngster, but the prospect of the centre back gaining top-flight experience could appeal to the Stamford Bridge club.
Karanka is keen to bolster his attacking options in particular.
Sunderland’s Danny Graham and Genk’s Jelle Vossen are on Boro’s list of strikers, but there is no interest in Kevin Doyle or Billy Sharp.
Graham is available for a cut-price fee and Karanka was impressed with his loan spell last season.
The 28-year-old was a target before Karanka took over last year, as was Belgium international Vossen, who almost signed last summer under Tony Mowbray, and both remain under consideration.
Reports in Belgium say the striker is unhappy at Genk and keen on a move to England.
Fans can watch Boro’s friendly clash with one-time UEFA Cup adversaries Villarreal next month from just £5.
Tickets for the season curtain raiser at the Riverside go on sale on Wednesday, July 16 and are priced at £10 adults, £7 OAPs, and £5 for juniors. The West Stand will be the only area open for this game.
The game, which takes place on Saturday, August 2 (3pm), is the first meeting between the two sides since the Spanish outfit were 2-0 winners in a UEFA clash back in 2004.
Villarreal finished sixth in the Primera Liga last term, and will provide a good test for Aitor Karanka’s side ahead of the season opener against Birmingham City at the Riverside, the following weekend.
Tickets are available to book online via www.mfc.co.uk, in person from the Ticket Office, or by calling 0844 499 1234.
If you wish to upgrade your matchday experience, and enjoy a meal hosted by a Boro legend, please contact 01642 352 781 for more information. Packages are available for just £40 adults/£30 Under-18s.