IT IS a deal that could end up being Middlesbrough’s most expensive of the summer, so what is it about Marten de Roon that has got chairman Steve Gibson ready to spend big?

After all the Dutch midfielder, who is costing a cool €14m, has never played for his country at senior level despite being aged 25 and the clubs he has played for are hardly European heavyweights.

But ask anyone at Atalanta, Heerenveen or Sparta Rotterdam what they think of de Roon and they will offer up a glowing reference, even if the player himself jokingly suggested recently that he can be ‘a bit of a dick’ on the pitch.

That is exactly what Middlesbrough’s scouting network and coaching staff like about him. They like the fact he has an edge, they like the fact he will get stuck in and they like the fact he can distribute the ball around confidently.

There is something else, though, which Aitor Karanka is understood to like even more – his forward thinking. And that also caught the eye of Napoli too.

Matteo Spini, the Atalanta correspondent for the Gazzetta Dello Sport, told The Northern Echo: “He’s an aggressive player, not the best with his feet, but he breaks up opponents’ actions and he starts the new one of his team. He’s not an Andres Iniesta, he’s more Sergio Busquets.

“He’s actually perfect for a 4-3-3, as the middle midfielder. He’s going to be a good addition for Boro, it will depend on what he does whether he represents good value during his time there.

“For Atalanta it was good to sell for a high price and a good deal because they only paid €1m for him. He was the great surprise of last season because he was not expected to play too much.  

“The fans are sad because de Roon was one of the most loved players. He was very appreciated by them because of his dedication on the pitch and to the team. They hoped he would stay and become a club legend like Glenn Stromberg in the 1980s.”

Even if two of the mainstays of Karanka's team during the last two years have been Grant Leadbitter and Adam Clayton at the heart of the Boro system, he is looking for something extra from de Roon.

It is not that the Middlesbrough head coach is ready to completely disregard two of his key men in the Premier League so easily, but he has been searching for another holding midfielder possessing something slightly different to the other two.

Karanka - whose squad begin pre-season training on Monday - wants his team to be an even greater counter-attacking force in the top-flight, so he wants his holding midfielders to immediately go on the front foot as soon as they have broken things up.

When de Roon, provided there are no late hiccups over the deal when he undergoes a medical and finalises his terms on Teesside, completes a tackle in his own half, he will not be expected to stand and admire his work after playing a simple pass.

Karanka will urge de Roon to do what he has built his career on in Serie A and the Eredivisie before that; to immediately move forward and look to join in with the attacks after winning possession.

He has never been regarded as a goalscoring midfielder – although he did score ten during two years in Rotterdam, followed by five for Heerenveen and one last season with Atalanta – but he does get around the box more than the traditional defensive middle-man.

It could be that Leadbitter and Clayton are asked to do the same when they play in the middle in the Premier League, but there was a deliberate tactic to find and sign a player already familiar with doing that – and Middlesbrough are on the verge of landing that man.

Eyebrows will be raised over the size of the fee for a mid-20s player yet to play international football, but recruitment chiefs Victor Orta and Gary Gill have put a lot of work into finding the right man to fill the role.

De Roon hardly looks a bargain, but Karanka and Gibson will be banking on him providing value for money when he lines up in the Middlesbrough midfield in the Premier League next season.

Meanwhile, Polish winger Maciej Rybus has claimed he could have joined Middlesbrough instead of Lyon.

The 26-year-old has stated he was targeted in January by the Teessiders when he was with Terek Grozny, but he was keen to decide his future in the summer and has moved to France instead on a three-year deal.

Rybus said: “My agent Mariusz Piekarski informed me of the interest of Inter Milan. Last winter Middlesbrough also offered a million euros, plus another million after promotion to the Premier League but my Russian club rejected the proposal.”

Middlesbrough have since landed Danish winger Viktor Fischer from Ajax for £3.8m, while they are hoping to secure the services of Gaston Ramirez on a permanent basis but he needs to secure a work permit. They are also still in the hunt for a goalkeeper after missing out on Gent’s Matz Sels, who has joined Newcastle.