STEWART DOWNING’S Middlesbrough career might not be over just yet despite hurtling towards the end of his second spell at the Riverside Stadium.

Boro confirmed yesterday that the 34-year-old is one of four players – as well as Dimi Konstantopoulos, John Obi Mikel and Andy Lonergan – yet to be offered new terms ahead of their contracts expiring at the end of June.

But Middlesbrough’s ongoing search for a new manager could still see Downing stay, and the statement issued by the club confirming the decision over his contract suggested as much.

Chairman Steve Gibson and chief executive Neil Bausor are still talking to contenders for the post and are understood to have narrowed the list down to a smaller few.

The identities of those on Gibson’s shortlist are unclear, although it is known that current coach Jonathan Woodgate is a leading candidate after impressing in an initial interview. But there are others in the frame.

Former Fulham boss Slavisa Jokanovic and Manchester City No 2 Mikel Arteta the other favourites with the bookmakers – and are known to have been considered by the Middlesbrough hierarchy. Cash could be the issue on both fronts.

Michael Reiziger has now been ruled out of the post after committing to Ajax, and there are believed to be candidates from abroad also under serious consideration, but Woodgate looks to be in the strongest position with this weekend approaching.

That could still provide Downing with an option to stay, even though he has alternative options to consider with Sheffield Wednesday, Blackburn, Sunderland and Rangers all keen. At this stage Rovers are known to be well placed to persuade him to keep playing in the Championship.

Middlesbrough released a statement on their official website to outline how Downing and Konstantopoulos, plus John Obi Mikel and Andy Lonergan, have not been offered new deals. The statement did throw in the word “yet” to suggest there is still an outside chance that any new manager might want to try to keep them.

The statement reads: “Stewart Downing, Dimi Konstantopoulos, Andy Lonergan and John Obi Mikel are set to become free agents this summer. The quartet are all out of contract and have not yet been offered new deals to stay on.”

Mikel and Lonergan only joined on short-term deals last season during the course of the last season, while Downing and Konstantopoulos have both been on Teesside for years.

The Northern Echo revealed yesterday how Blackburn have already been in touch with Downing to discuss a move, while Wednesday boss Steve Bruce is a long term admirer of his.

Mikel was never likely to stay around on Teesside following the failure to clinch promotion to the Premier League. The experienced Nigerian midfielder is hoping to stay in England and has had interest in him from Fulham, Crystal Palace and Brighton.  Middlesbrough have also confirmed that Mo Besic, Jordan Hugill and Rajiv van la Parra have returned to their parent clubs after their loans came to an end. All three players are due to leave and will be available to move on this summer.