7:00am Thursday 3rd April 2014
By Paul Fraser
MIDDLESBROUGH face a further summer of uncertainty at the Riverside Stadium as Aitor Karanka looks to build a squad capable of delivering promotion - with the futures of more than a dozen first team players unclear.
Contracts are up for renewal, including Argentine forward Emmanuel Ledesma and goalkeeper Dimi Konstantopoulos, while five key members of the current squad will head back to parent clubs at the end of their loans.
There is also an extensive group of men entering the final year of their existing deals, with Middlesbrough in a position where they will have to make decisions on whether to cash in on certain individuals.
Former England Under-21 goalkeeper Jason Steele, who has lost his place since suffering injury in November, midfielder Grant Leadbitter and winger Mustapha Carayol are among those heading for the last 12 months.
All three have attracted interest during the last 18 months, with the latter two the subject of substantial multi-million pound offers from Championship rivals such as Nottingham Forest and Brighton respectively.
And with a short time remaining on the trio’s existing terms, Middlesbrough will be faced with a decision to issue longer term contracts or run the risk of them leaving for nothing the following summer.
Left-back George Friend, skipper Jonathan Woodgate, former Sunderland midfielder Dean Whitehead and Marvin Emnes, on loan at Swansea, are among the others also due to enter the last season of their contracts.
Striker Lukas Jutkiewicz, who has a deal until 2016, is likely to be available at the right price following six goals in 12 starts during a successful loan spell at Bolton.
Karanka – who is yet to make decisions on the players with uncertain futures - is keen to focus on the remaining seven matches of the season, reminding the players that a play-off place could still be achievable if they finish on a club record winning run.
But he will soon have to concentrate on seriously planning for pre-season if the play-off hopes fail to strengthen, which will mean deciding on the futures of those Middlesbrough are due to lose.
There is every chance he will try to bring Kenneth Omeruo and Nathaniel Chalobah back for a full season once their half season loans from Chelsea expire.
While Middlesbrough must consider whether to ask Debrecen to make versatile Hungarian Jozsef Varga’s season-long switch a permanent arrangement. He has been solid at right-back.
Striker Danny Graham and goalkeeper Tomas Mejias, currently ruled out with a dislocated finger, could also have respective temporary switches from Sunderland and Real Madrid turned in to more if the financial side of things suits all parties.
Karanka - along with chairman Steve Gibson and chief executive Neil Bausor - clearly have big decisions to make before and during the close-season, but it looks certain to be yet another summer of huge change on Teesside. Some players have contracts with options for a further year.
Since Middlesbrough dropped out of the Premier League in 2009 there has had to be huge alterations, particularly in the last four summers under Gordon Strachan and Tony Mowbray.
Mowbray worked hard to reduce the club’s wage budget and, while still one of the highest in the Championship, the reductions meant extensive changes to personnel.
This summer looks like seeing a great number of changes once more and Karanka, whose side face Steve McClaren’s Derby at home this Saturday, will hope to deliver a successful team despite the lack of continuity in the team’s ranks.
DEALS EXPIRING IN JUNE
ENTERING FINAL 12 MONTHS
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