7:00am Friday 2nd May 2014
By Scott Wilson
DIMI KONSTANTOPOULOS has agreed to a new one-year contract that will see him remain at Middlesbrough next season.
The Greek goalkeeper was due to become a free agent next month, with Nottingham Forest heading a long list of Championship clubs to have inquired about his potential availability following an impressive run of games in Middlesbrough’s first team.
Boro boss Aitor Karanka recommended retaining Konstantopoulos last month, and negotiations between club officials and the 35-year-old have resulted in an agreement over a new deal.
“It is done,” said Karanka, who brought Konstantopoulos in from the cold at the start of March when Tomas Mejias injured his hand. “We have been speaking with Dimi, and he is very happy here.
“We are very happy with him because when I first came here he was the fourth-choice keeper, but he has forced his way into the team and been a very important player for us in the last few months of the season.
STAYING: Dimi Konstantopoulos
“I don’t know if the contract is completely signed now, or if it will be signed next week. But it is all agreed, and he will be here with us next season.”
The decision to retain Konstantopoulos raises serious doubts about the long-term future of Jason Steele, even though the former England under-21 international is due to start tomorrow’s game at Yeovil Town.
Steele will make his first appearance since being dismissed at Leeds in Karanka’s first game in charge when he lines up at Huish Park, but that should not be interpreted as a sign that his stock has risen in the eyes of his manager.
With Steele due to enter the final year of his contract in June, Boro will look to move him on this summer while he is still able to command a significant fee.
Jayson Leutwiler will be released when his contract expires, and with Mejias due to return to Real Madrid at the end of his loan deal, the Teessiders will have to recruit a new shot-stopper to provide cover for Konstantopoulos next season. The alternative is to try to sign Mejias on a season-long loan deal.
As well as sorting out his goalkeeping options, Karanka has spent the last few weeks working with the rest of Boro’s recruitment team to firm up the club’s leading summer targets.
Two areas of the field have emerged as a priority, and both involve players who are currently on loan, and who Karanka would like to retain if a deal could be agreed.
With Justin Hoyte having departed, and Fraizer Richardson set to leave permanently in the close season, Boro will attempt to turn Jozsef Varga’s temporary move from Debrecen into a full-time switch. However, even if the Hungarian joins permanently, Karanka would also like to sign a more natural right-back to bolster his defensive resources.
At the other end of the field, the need for a new centre-forward is obvious, even if Danny Graham can be prised from Sunderland.
“There are specific areas we are looking at,” said Karanka. “It is not a secret that we need a right-back, and it is also not a secret that we need a striker. These two positions are the most important for me now, and that is not really a surprise.
“I don’t know what is going to happen with the loan players at the moment. When it comes to someone like Danny, I will wait until after the weekend, then I will look at what is happening.
“Jozsef is in the same position. I have to know what is happening with him and his club before I can say anything, but he has done very well for us.
“He is a very good example for the rest of the squad because he was someone who wasn’t really playing, but he got a chance and he took it. He hadn’t really been seen as a right-back, but he has played 20 or 25 games for us in that position now and always done very well. That is the type of character I want in my players.”
While Varga is expected to retain his position for the final game of the season, Grant Leadbitter will not be involved after damaging his ankle in training on Wednesday. The midfielder had his foot in a protective cast yesterday and will not travel to the South-West.
Jonathan Woodgate and George Friend are also unavailable, so Seb Hines will make only his third appearance of the season at the heart of the back four.
“It’s the final game and we go into it without anything riding on the result,” said Karanka. “Yeovil are the same. But we will still go into the game in the same way as if we were playing for something.
“The people who are going to Yeovil deserve to watch a game with two teams playing with everything on the pitch. If we go there thinking it is a nothing game, then we are wrong.”
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