CHRIS WILDER has cited James Lea-Siliki's inability to force his way into the Middlesbrough team and participation at the Africa Cup of Nations as the main reasons why he has been deemed surplus to requirements.

Lea-Siliki, who is currently on international duty with Cameroon, has been transfer listed by the club as part of an ongoing January overhaul that has seen four new faces come through the door.

Boro’s most recent acquisition is Australian midfielder Riley McGree, with the 23-year-old’s arrival further weakening Lea-Siliki’s case for a place in Wilder’s team.

Lea-Siliki’s loan spell from French side Rennes held a lot of promise when it was first announced, but he has managed just ten appearances in a Boro shirt, only two of which were starts.

When the history books look back on the African’s spell on Teesside, it will be a short story all told. Wilder was quick to state his reasons why Lea-Siliki has been told he is free to find another club this month.

"He's struggled to get into our side because I think the three midfield players have been really good" said the Boro boss. "He had an injury and had Covid that kept him out of the group as well.

“The group’s gone well, and the three midfield players have been good, and Riley, for a long-term purchase, it’s always been on our radar to bring him in.

"I've talked about adding assets to the group, and I'm sure Riley will become a real fans’ favourite with his attitude, ability and the attributes he possesses.

"Sometimes, you look at it and, without being too controversial, you lose a player for potentially a month at a really important part of the season.

"I think there are quite a lot of factors that have stopped him playing and progressing in the team. I've got to make decisions. That's part and parcel of my job.

"I've got to make these decisions and I've got to have balance and cover. It's no good me having Tav or Riley who play there and carrying James when that money can be used elsewhere and manoeuvred to strengthen another part of the pitch."

As things stand, Matt Crooks, Marcus Tavernier, Martin Payero and McGree are all ahead of Lea-Siliki in the pecking order.

The Cameroonian was named on the club's transfer list alongside striker Uche Ikpeazu, attacker Marcus Browne and winger Onel Hernandez, who has since gone on to seal a loan move to Birmingham City.

Part of Lea-Siliki's loan deal from Rennes included a purchase clause once this season had drawn to a close, and Wilder accepts that could cause some complications when it comes to terminating the loan spell.

"There is a lot of work to be done" he added. "The deals are complex deals. There are obviously other clubs involved that we have to work with and try and get through the process."

Those conversations are ongoing, in the hope that a deal can be done before the end of the transfer window.

While Lea-Siliki’s participation in the Africa Cup of Nations was always going to be an issue in terms of his Boro career, his lack of game time to this point is also a major problem.

"We've talked to James regarding his future and Kieran has spoken to his agent,” continued Wilder. “James wants to play first-team football.

"From his point of view and his parent club’s point of view in terms of his value, he's not really going to keep or advance that if he's not playing first-team football.

"Now, with the form of Tav, and Riley who can play in there as well, his opportunities and pathways are certainly blocked. He needs to play, and that decision has been made.”