NEIL WARNOCK has warned Britt Assombalonga he will have to take a hefty pay cut if he is to sign a new contract to remain with Middlesbrough beyond the end of the season.

Assombalonga’s contract is due to expire in the summer, and unlike with the likes of Jonny Howson, Anfernee Dijksteel, Marc Bola and Duncan Watmore, who have all recently signed new long-term agreements, the Boro hierarchy are yet to open talks with their club’s record signing.

Like Ashley Fletcher, who is also due to become a free agent in five months’ time, Assombalonga signed his current deal in the immediate aftermath of Boro’s relegation from the Premier League at a time when, flush with the first tranche of their parachute payments, the Teessiders were still willing to pay top-flight wages in an attempt to get out of the Championship.

The financial picture has changed markedly in the last three-and-a-half years, so while Warnock has not ruled out trying to keep Assombalonga at the Riverside, he has told the 28-year-old he will have to be realistic about the offer he could receive.

“At the end of the season, there’ll be a fair bit of talking to do,” said Warnock. “It’s widely known that Britt is our best-paid player at the club. That’s no fault of Britt – he did well, bloody hell did do well, I wish I was his agent.

“I can guarantee you 100 per cent that he will have to take a pay cut if he stays. There’s absolutely no question about that. You can’t blame him or his agent for negotiating what his contract is, but those days are gone now in the Championship.

“He’s done well out of Middlesbrough, and if we got a few good months out of him, who knows what that might mean? If we could get Britt firing for three months, who knows where we could be? You’re not going to get much better than Britt, but it’s no good talking about a new contract with him yet.”

Middlesbrough will hardly be alone in looking to restore a sense of financial balance this summer. There is a good chance the entire Championship season will have to be played out behind-closed-doors, so while the Football League’s television deal with Sky has guaranteed a small amount of income, each and every club in the second tier has had to come terms with a new financial reality.

“A lot of players will find that it’s not the same place as it has been in the last few years,” said Warnock. “We will talk to these players that are out of contract if we want them to stay, and give them our realistic offer. If it’s not good enough, you lose them, don’t you? That’s how it goes.

“I think the agents probably think if their players do this, that and the other, they’re going to be offered fortunes. I don’t think that’s going to happen in the summer.”

Middlesbrough were offering fortunes when Garry Monk was tasked with rebuilding the squad in the wake of relegation, and like Tony Pulis before him, Warnock remains amazed at some of the recruitment mistakes that were made in the aftermath of the club’s one-season stay in the top-flight.

The 72-year-old certainly doesn’t question Steve Gibson’s willingness to invest in the squad. However, he does scratch at his head at where some of the money went.

“What is shows is that there’s an owner at Middlesbrough who has tried like hell to try to help his managers get success,” said Warnock. “I’ve said to him (Gibson) on one or two occasions, ‘I wish you’d have rung me about a few players’.

"I won’t name names, but there’s one or two players where if he’d made on phone call to me, I’d have told him not to touch them with a bargepole."