SOUTHAMPTON will be the first Premier League club to test Middlesbrough’s determination to keep Ben Gibson at the Riverside Stadium this summer.

Boro’s failure to return to the top-flight at the first attempt has paved the way for higher ranked clubs to renew their interest in the homegrown defender.

And Mark Hughes, the Saints boss, is ready to have a go again having failed to secure his services last summer when he was the Stoke City boss.

Stoke are known to have made a substantial offer for Gibson after Middlesbrough’s relegation from the Premier League 12 months ago.

But the player’s uncle Steve Gibson, the Middlesbrough chairman, was determined to keep hold of him to help the drive to finish in the Championship’s promotion places.

Now, following Tuesday’s confirmation that second tier football will be on Teesside again next season, Hughes is ready to make the first move for Gibson after keeping Southampton up.

Southampton are looking to bring in the extra defensive quality following January’s decision to sell Virgin van Dijk, when the Dutch centre-back moved to Liverpool for £75m.

While Hughes’ long term admiration could play a part in negotiations, it remains to be seen what Middlesbrough’s stance will be this time.

While they would be keen to keep one of their prize assets, finances could help Tony Pulis and his own squad building plans after admitting in midweek that he was not intending to spend much more of the chairman’s money.

As well as Southampton, there is also known to be strong interest in Gibson from a number of other clubs including West Ham, Everton and Leicester – three clubs who all stayed in the Premier League, so are armed with plenty cash.

Pulis and Gibson, though, do not want to weaken a squad they feel has the base to be successful under the current manager after forcing themselves into the top six this season after a sluggish start.

Middlesbrough’s failure to gain promotion back to the Premier League will result in less money coming in through the TV broadcast deal, although they will still receive a parachute payment.

The club have confirmed it will be handed £34.9m from that payment and it is made up of a £15.5m equal share from the top-flight and a further £19.4m as part of the international TV broadcast deal.

This payment will be the second annual parachute payment received by Middlesbrough following relegation to the Championship 12 months ago.