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Uncertainty surrounds Boro's transfer talks
MIDDLESBROUGH'S search for a striker has stalled after hearing mixed messages in the pursuit of their two main targets, but Tony Mowbray is not giving up on the men he thinks can torment Championship defences.
While Boro are understood to be open to the idea of allowing Marvin Emnes to leave before the transfer window closes on September 2, Mowbray remains hot on the trail of both Tokelo Rantie and Ross McCormack.
But, despite hearing indications both deals are possible, Middlesbrough are weighing up their next move after being told by Malmo and Leeds United that there is a reluctance to part with both men.
Sources in Sweden have suggested Malmo - half-way through their domestic season - would have been willing to sell Rantie earlier in the summer if their valuation had been met.
But there is now a real determination to retain him following the closure of the Swedish mid-season transfer window on Monday night because Malmo would not be able to bring in a replacement until January.
Mowbray is thought to have flown out to Scandinavia after the victory at Charlton to personally run the rule over Rantie in Malmo's 1-0 win over Solna on Sunday.
After having a 1m euros offer rejected already for the South African, the message this week from Malmo is quite clear. "Now we no longer have the option of getting a replacement if we get rid of some players, so it's obviously a factor that is weighed in," said the club's sporting director Per Agren.
The situation at Leeds appears even more complicated. Middlesbrough are still hopeful a deal can be struck for McCormack, but the Scotland international remains the striker they would prefer to keep at Elland Road.
Leeds owners GFH Capital want to raise money to help manager Brian McDermott bring in the players he wants within the next few weeks and McCormack is viewed as the most saleable asset.
But McDermott believes selling the 26-year-old would create another problem similar to that which Middlesbrough are faced with - how to find another forward for around £1m.
Mowbray, who suggested over the weekend he will not rush in to signing players he did not think would be right for the long term, is satisfied with how his squad has shaped up over the summer.
But he thinks different attacking options will make Middlesbrough a more potent threat - even if fresh suggestions that Swansea City are considering a loan move for Emnes come to anything concrete.
"I quite liked the team we have had out against Leicester and then the one that played against Charlton, we will win matches," said Mowbray. "It's got bits of experience and that will help us this season.
"Dean Whitehead is a good signing, a man who does a good job, and there is no one better than Jonathan Woodgate in this league when he plays.
"Rhys Williams is over his injury problems now and will only get stronger and George Friend has to rediscover the form which made him a star for six months.
"There is a lot of competition for the right-back berth, Grant Leadbitter showed what a quality player he can be last year, Jozsef Varga will grow into this league and at the top end Lukas Jutkiewicz is still only 23, still a young man, forging his way. How many goals will he score? Let's wait and see.
"I think in my mind, the team is competitive. But certain individuals are not having the day they hope or the balance is not right, you need to turn around and change it off the bench - put someone on the pitch who can make a difference and that is why we have to add some players."
As well as Emnes' situation, Millwall are also keen on Justin Hoyte after failing with a bid to bring in Bolton right-back Tyrone Mears. Middlesbrough might have only won one of their opening three matches of the season, but Mowbray has promotion as his goal.
The Middlesbrough boss, whose side now face fancied Blackpool and Wigan, said: "We just have to get out of this league. This is Middlesbrough football club; 11 consecutive years in the Premier League. Signing Ravanelli, Juninho, Merson, Gascoigne, Boksic. You can keep reeling them off.
"My mind is now focused on who are we going to sign to get us back to that level. We're trying hard and maybe it is more difficult to sign these players today than it was ten years ago."
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