MIDDLESBROUGH remain keen to tie up a loan deal for Falorin Balogun – despite the Arsenal striker having contracted Covid.

The Teessiders finalised the terms of Balogun’s proposed season-long switch to the Riverside last week, but the 20-year-old’s move to the North-East has been held up after he produced a positive test result in the build-up to Arsenal’s FA Cup third-round game at Nottingham Forest.

The England Under-21 international was not involved as the Gunners suffered a 1-0 defeat at the City Ground, although Arsenal’s FA Cup exit has strengthened Mikel Arteta’s desire to release Balogun on loan in the second half of the season as his opportunity for game time at the Emirates will be even more limited without FA Cup matches to be involved in.

Boro officials have been kept updated about Balogun’s condition, and both manager Chris Wilder and head of football Kieran Scott remain keen to add the youngster to the ranks for the second half of the season.

Balogun has scored two goals in ten senior appearances for Arsenal, and also scored for the Under-21s in Papa John’s Trophy matches against Plymouth and Ipswich this season.

He is set to become Boro’s second signing of the month, with Aaron Connolly having joined on loan from Brighton last week. Connolly was not involved in last weekend’s FA Cup third-round win at Mansfield, but is set to make his Boro debut when Reading visit the Riverside in the Championship this weekend.

The Teessiders have held discussions over a possible move for Charlotte FC midfielder Riley McGree, with Celtic also pursuing the Australia international.

McGree joined Charlotte, who are currently preparing for their inaugural season in the MLS, from Adelaide United in October 2020.

The 23-year-old spent the second half of last season and the first half of the current campaign on loan at Birmingham City, making 30 senior appearances for the Blues, and was due to return to North Carolina following the end of his deal in the Midlands.

However, there is now a good chance he will reman in the UK, with Nottingham Forest also having been credited with an interest in acquiring his services.

As well as pursuing players who can make an immediate impact on the first team, Boro’s recruitment team are also looking at targets with the potential for a longer-term benefit.

Caolan Boyd-Munce fits that bill, and while the 21-year-old made an immediate impact as he scored on his debut at Mansfield at the weekend, the free signing from Birmingham is likely to be on the bench at best when the Championship programme resumes this weekend.

“We’re looking at different deals,” admitted Wilder. “The main ones are, of course, the shorter-term ones that are going to help the group in the next three or four months for the second half of the season. But if there is something that comes up that we think is a decent one for us, then we will go forward with it, like we have done with this one (Boyd-Munce).”

Boyd-Munce was plucked from Birmingham’s Under-23s, and while his weekend performance at Field Mill might have come against League Two opposition, he proved he is more than capable of coping at senior level.

“He’s just a young boy, but he’s someone we’ve tracked and monitored,” said Wilder. “We’ve had a good look at him and we’ve decided to have a go with him.

“He’s a technical player, but he needs to get up to speed of course. Is he going to come in and push the players in the first team in the next sort of two, three or four weeks? No. But we’ve got to build as well.

“We build on different fronts. There are not a lot of left-footed players out there and he is technically good, he’s got good pedigree and you could see his quality at times (against Mansfield), particularly in the first half where he got around well.”