NEIL WARNOCK admits he is already encountering stiff opposition from “four or five” rivals as he attempts to make some early transfer inroads before the end of the season.

Warnock will oversee a major overhaul of Middlesbrough’s first-team squad this summer, with three new forwards on his wanted list along with a number of targeted additions in other areas of the field.

In an ideal world, the Boro boss would like to complete the majority of his signings before the start of pre-season training, but while he has spoken to a number of targets in the last couple of weeks, with Bristol City’s Famara Diedhiou understood to be one of the players under serious consideration, he has been unable to secure any cast-iron guarantees.

He is already finding that the players he is targeting are also involved in talks with a number of other suitors, and with the financial picture remaining uncertain right across the Football League, Warnock is anticipating a difficult summer of negotiating.

“We’ve got to try to get value for money,” said the Boro boss. “We won’t be signing any £10m players or anything like that, we’ve got to be realistic in what we’re getting. But the type of players I’m looking at, there’s already four or five clubs after them too.

“It’s not an easy situation, but in a way, I think I maybe enjoy that more than spending money and then regretting it. It’s hard work to get players in, but it’s still a very popular club. Players still want to come and play for the club, and sometimes they want to play for me.

“It’s that type of player we need, but that’s why I want us to move quickly to get two or three in so that we haven’t got to rush everything else. We can’t be rushing to try to get everyone in at the end of the window – we’ve got to try to do some business in that first few weeks.”

As well as monitoring the situation with Diedhiou, who is due to become a free agent later this summer, Warnock has also been linked with Sunderland striker Charlie Wyke in the last few weeks. Like Diedhiou, Wyke is in the final few months of his current deal, and Warnock admits Boro have been looking at players from the lower leagues.

“We’ve looked at League One and League Two over the last few weeks,” he said. “I think you’ve got to do that. You’ve got to do your homework and have a look.

“Ronnie (Jepson) and Kev (Blackwell) will be at games this weekend, they won’t be with me. We’ve got to look at as much as we can. Ronnie was abroad the other week, and it was well worthwhile going. We won’t be taking that any further because of what Ronnie saw.”

Once they have finalised their list of targets, Warnock and the rest of his recruitment team will work with chief executive Neil Bausor to try to thrash out a deal. However, while the Covid pandemic has affected finances right across football, the message has not necessarily got through to players and their agents.

“I’ve been speaking to agents, and I just can’t believe what some of them think they’re going to get their clients,” said Warnock. “You just have to say, ‘Well, good luck to you’.

“I think, at the minute, the football club is costing Steve (Gibson) around £3m-a-month. It’s alright people saying, ‘Get your bloody finger out Gibson’, and some of the things I read on these websites, but if it was their money, they wouldn’t be saying that.”