STEVE McClaren is expected to tie up a deal this week to bring Celtic star Bobo Balde to the Riverside.

If the Boro boss gets his way then the 29-year-old Guinean centre-back may link up with his new team-mates in Spain in the next few days.

The Teessiders have headed south for warm weather training before the FA Cup tie at Old Trafford next Saturday, but Celtic are keen Balde serves out the remainder of his contract which expires in the summer.

McClaren's desire to strengthen his back-line has increased following Saturday's game at Norwich where Boro squandered a three goal lead.

McClaren said: "They hit high balls into the box and we had difficulty dealing with that.

"That isn't usually a weakness of ours. We do miss the likes of Ehiogu and Riggott in the middle as we saw."

Celtic wanted to keep Balde but have been unable to agree a new contract for the player they signed on a free from Toulouse in 2001.

If Celtic force the player to stay until the summer it is likely Balde will sign a pre-contract with Boro and move at the end of the season on a four-year deal.

Balde was wanted by Newcastle in the summer with the Hoops turning down a £1.25m bid from Sir Bobby Robson.

* Boro's England youth international Anthony Peacock has been told he can leave the club.

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