The future of George Friend is a real concern for Middlesbrough supporters.
The 32-year-old is in the final year of his contract meaning that the Teessiders risk losing him for nothing next summer.
The Northern Echo have reported that Friend is the subject of interest from Stoke City who are keen to make a cut-price move for him in the January transfer window.
Middlesbrough have been struggling so far this term after a run of nine games without a win – a period that has left them sitting in the relegation.
Friend has been injured for much of the season but made his long-awaited comeback in the 2-2 draw with Queens Park Rangers on Saturday.
However with his future hanging in the balance, it remains to be seen how much longer he’ll be sticking around.
There’s plenty for Middlesbrough to consider so here’s a look at what they need to weigh up.
The loss of a leader
Middlesbrough are in the middle of a difficult patch and they’ll need all of the experience that they can get during the rest of the season.
That means that a potential departure for George Friend would be a disaster.
Jonathan Woodgate’s side looked a lot stronger with the full-back in the side against QPR, and the Boro boss will be hoping and praying that Friend will at least be sticking around until the end of the season.
The lure of a potential transfer fee
While the need for experience is crucial, it’s important to remember that money talks.
January represents the last opportunity for Middlesbrough to command a fee for George Friend, and with the club keen to cut their cloth and build for the future, the potential of a fee could be very appealing for the club hierarchy.
It just depends whether the loss of a key member of the dressing room is worth the cut-price fee that Boro could receive.
Should Middlesbrough offer George Friend a new contract?
Who would replace him?
If George Friend left in January it would leave Jonathan Woodgate with a real problem at left back.
While Ryan Shotton can play on the left, it’s certainly not a natural position for the experienced defender.
Marc Bola would be the other option, but based on his performances so far this term it would likely be a huge gamble to throw him in as the first choice left back for the rest of the season.