STEWART DOWNING will hold talks with Birmingham City on Tuesday, with Harry Redknapp intent on making sure the “proper player” sees his second spell at Middlesbrough come to an end.

But The Northern Echo understands it is not at all cut and dried that the former England man will be playing at St Andrew’s next season.

In fact Downing has some strong options to play in La Liga, where Spanish clubs Malaga, Levante and Espanyol are all keen on providing him with a fresh challenge.

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The 32-year-old has had plenty of interest in him since being told by Garry Monk that he can leave the Riverside Stadium on a free transfer.

But it is the prospect of working under Redknapp or moving to Spain that is appealing to him at this stage.

Downing was left out of Saturday’s pre-season victory over Chesterfield in the Algarve as a precautionary measure after picking up a knock.

The reality is neither Monk nor the player would want him to suffer an injury at such a crucial stage of pre-season when he is looking for a new club.

Downing has previously played in the Premier League with Middlesbrough, Aston Villa, Liverpool and West Ham, and he has never spent time playing for a foreign club.

However, the Spanish option is being considered this time, which is why Downing is keen to have a serious face-to-face chat with Redknapp to see whether he is excited by the Birmingham project.

Redknapp, who is also looking into signing Ashley Cole and Robbie Keane, has made a favourable impression on the Teessider – and the Blues boss has made it clear he wants him at St Andrew’s.

"Stewart Downing is a proper player, got a great left foot, he's fit as a fiddle," said Redknapp. "Whether we could afford him I don't know. Wage-wise I don't know where we would go with it, I haven't got a clue what he earns, and he belongs to Middlesbrough, but I think they've said he can go on a free, so he's of interest.”

Monk has made some swift progress on the transfer front, with £9m striker Martin Braithwaite and Swansea defender Connor Roberts the latest two additions to the senior squad. They have followed Jonny Howson and Cyrus Christie to the North-East club.

Now Middlesbrough are stepping up efforts to bring in Liverpool youngster Sheyi Ojo and Nottingham Forest’s Britt Assombalonga, although Burnley are doing everything they can to land the latter instead.

Monk, speaking from the Algarve where his side have spent the week, said: “I’m sure the club are working back home to get one or two more that we’ve identified for the areas we need to strengthen.”

Middlesbrough overcame Chesterfield in Portugal courtesy of a classy finish from Cristhian Stuani and a 57th minute penalty from Patrick Bamford, with both men keen to shine under the new boss in the Championship.

Monk said: “There’s still a lot of work to be done, a lot of improvements to be made, in terms of how the week’s gone overall, I’m pleased at this stage.

“There’s been a lot of new ideas, a lot of detail for the players, it’s not easy for them but there’s a high expectancy from myself.

“So it was good to see us take another step forward against Chesterfield but there’s a lot of work and a lot of improvement to be done as well.”

MIDDLESBROUGH: Konstantopoulos; Fabio, Fry, Gibson, Baptiste; Clayton, Leadbitter; Forshaw, Soisalo, Stuani; Gestede. Second half: Ripley, Christie, Ayala, Mahmutovic, Friend, Howson, De Roon, Ramirez, Traore, Tavernier, Bamford.