MIDDLESBROUGH have been told they will have to bid £2.5m if they want to sign midfield target Marcus Maddison next month.

Maddison’s current contract at Peterborough United is due to expire at the end of the season, but a clause exists that would enable another club to buy him in January for £2.5m.

Middlesbrough are one of a number of Championship clubs to have approached Peterborough officials in the last few weeks to express an interest in the Durham-born 26-year-old.

It has even been suggested that Boro officials have indicated a willingness to make a formal offer at the start of next month, but for a fee well below £2.5m.

The Peterborough board accept they could lose Maddison for nothing in the summer, but are adamant they will not allow the attacking midfielder to leave in January unless they are left with no choice because someone triggers his buyout clause.

Speaking at his club’s annual general meeting yesterday, Posh director of football Barry Fry confirmed he has spoken to interested parties from the Championship in the last few weeks, but ruled out any prospect of Maddison leaving on the cheap next month.

“We are not interested in selling anyone in January,” said Fry, who is targeting automatic promotion with Peterborough third in League One. “We want to add to the squad, not weaken it.

“The one issue we could have is Marcus, because if someone meets his valuation, we can’t stop him talking to the bidding club and he could then leave.

“I don’t believe for one minute that will happen though. It makes no sense to pay £2.5m for someone you could sign for nothing in five months’ time. Some clubs have made cheeky offers, but they won’t get Marcus on the cheap.

“And Marcus is happy to stay with us. If he does leave us, he would like it to be with the club promoted to the Championship.”

Middlesbrough focused their transfer attention on League One in the summer, and while Jonathan Woodgate admits Marc Bola, Anfernee Dijksteel and Marcus Browne have all struggled to handle the step up to the Championship, the club still regard the third tier as a fertile recruiting ground.

Maddison, who was briefly on Gateshead’s books before moving to Peterborough in 2014, is widely regarded as the most talented player in League One, boasting ten goals from 21 appearances in the current campaign. Last season, he also scored ten goals and finished the campaign as the leading provider of assists in the division.

While Boro will have to wheel and deal to ensure they remain within the financial parameters laid down by the Football League’s Financial Fair Play rules, Woodgate is keen to make additions to his squad next month.

Boro have also been linked with Aberdeen striker Sam Cosgrove – assistant manager Robbie Keane travelled to Scotland to watch the 23-year-old last month – and Rangers goalkeeper Wes Foderingham.

The reported interest in Foderingham is interesting as it increases the likelihood of Darren Randolph leaving Teesside next month.

Woodgate has repeatedly insisted Boro do not need to sell to buy next month, but West Ham are set to offer Randolph a return to the Premier League, with Manuel Pellegrini having given up on the error-prone Roberto.

However, with Lukasz Fabianski set to return from injury before the end of the year, and David Martin having performed creditably in the last couple of games, Randolph could be reluctant to return to the London Stadium if there was a risk of jeopardising his place in the Republic of Ireland team for March’s Euro 2020 play-offs and a possible appearance at the subsequent finals.