TUNCAY SANLI may figure in the Middlesbrough squad for this afternoon’s pre-season friendly at Macclesfield, but the Turkey international could soon be on his way to Villarreal.

Tuncay and Stewart Downing were both linked with a move to Aston Villa over recent weeks, but Villans boss Martin O’Neill turned down the chance to sign the former Fenerbahce player.

O’Neill was offered the duo by Middlesbrough for a combined £20m fee but Villa decided only to push through a £12m deal for Downing.

Villarreal have now emerged as the only serious candidates for Tuncay’s signature, despite tentative interest from Tottenham, Liverpool and Chelsea.

While Tuncay hopes to continue in the Premier League he is being forced to seriously consider a move away from England.

There remains strong interest from former club Fenerbahce, although he is reluctant to return to Turkey at this stage of his career and Spain appeals.

Villarreal’s problem, however, is that they are unlikely to pay Boro’s £8m valuation and they could also find it difficult to match his reputed £60,000-a-week wages.

But following the departure of his close friend at the El Madrigal, Nihat, who has returned to Besiktas, Villarreal are confident of agreeing a deal.

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate has already made plans for Tuncay’s departure and has held discussions with Sheffield United striker Danny Webber.

Webber was shown around the training ground last Friday, but there is also interest from Crystal Palace.

Southgate is also keeping his options open and will now make an official approach to Derby for striker Rob Hulse.

With £10m of the Downing fee due for immediate payment, Southgate is now ready to spend around £3m on landing the 29-year-old.

Hulse has been on Middlesbrough’s radar for the best part of 18 months, but Derby manager Nigel Clough will do his best to keep the former Crewe man.

The sale of Downing has eased any financial worries at the Riverside Stadium following relegation and now he is focusing on a new challenge at Villa Park.

But he is not due back from an injured foot until weeks after he has had a pin removed that is repairing the problem on September 21.

And, after completing his move to Villa, Downing has relived the moment his Boro career came to an end on the penultimate game of the season – ironically against his new employers.

Downing recalled: “I knew straight away there was a problem. I panicked because I saw my boot and laces were ripped and there was a lot of pain. To be honest, I thought I’d broken my ankle.

“I tried to play on but as soon as I tried to flick the ball with my left foot and put my weight on my right foot I just had this massive, throbbing pain.

“But the swelling wouldn’t go down so it was clear there was something wrong. So I was booked in to see a specialist in London for further scans and tests when it was confirmed that I suffered ligament damage in the foot.

“For the six weeks after the operation I wasn’t able to do anything at all really so I just took a break and got away from it all. But now I’m doing plenty of swimming, bike work and gym work, so I’m keeping fit and making progress on the rehab.”

Southgate, meanwhile, will be without Afonso Alves (foot), Chris Riggott (ankle), Emanuel Pogatetz (knee) and David Wheater (knee) at Macclesfield this afternoon.

But he is expected to hand Mark Yeates and Danny Coyne their first action in a Middlesbrough shirt.