It’s set to be a busy summer for Middlesbrough’s recruitment team as they kick up the rebuilding process under Jonathan Woodgate.
Seven senior first team stars are out of contract on June 30th and with no new deals agreed as of yet it appears likely that the majority of those players could be moving on.
But while replacing those stars is tough enough, the Teessiders could also be preparing to offload a significant figure in the Boro dressing room.
Britt Assombalonga could be heading for the exit door as Middlesbrough reach something of a crossroad in their transfer strategy.
Signed for a fee in the region of £15million in the summer of 2017, Assombalonga was tipped to be the striker who could fire the North East side back to the Premier League.
Things hadn’t exactly gone to plan during the 2016-17 season as they were immediately relegated back to the Championship after ending their seven-year exile from the top flight.
Club chairman Steve Gibson threw absolutely everything at ensuring that then-Boro boss Garry Monk had everything he needed to get the job done – and that included a club-record signing leading the line.
While Middlesbrough fell short, Assombalonga just about achieved everything that his track record had promised after scoring 15 goals as the Teessiders’ reached the play-offs in 2017-18, and 16 the season after as they fell painfully short.
Given the club’s defensive focus under Tony Pulis, those tallies were more than respectable and the hope was that under the free-flowing football that Jonathan Woodgate promised last summer, Assombalonga could really kick on and hit new heights as Middlesbrough’s main marksman.
Woodgate promised to give the 27-year-old all of the support that he’d need to fire the club to glory, but put simply, the striker just hasn’t delivered.
Middlesbrough have struggled for results this term and so that was always going to negative impact Assombalonga’s strike rate, but a tally of just six goals is not good enough for a club-record signing.
The former Nottingham Forest man is by far the highest earning player at the Riverside Stadium, and while that shouldn’t be a deciding factor, you’d at least expect the striker to be one of the club’s top performers.
But that hasn’t happened with Assombalonga currently unable to even break into the starting XI, with Ashley Fletcher seemingly being the club’s first choice attacker.
Middlesbrough are in the early stages of amending their recruitment strategy as they look to sign high potential players for moderate fees and then develop them into first team stars or sell them on at a profit.
That model has seen the wage bill cut drastically from what it was last season, and will see it happen once again with seven first team stars reaching the end of their lucrative deals this summer.
As for Britt Assombalonga, the club has a big decision to make.
The striker will be the top earner at the club, but with just one year remaining on his deal it seems that this summer will be one of the last chances to recoup a fee for the frontman.
Middlesbrough would be delusional to think that they’ll attract anywhere near the £15million paid for him this summer, but the club’s current financial situation means that they’ll certainly be hoping to attract as big a fee as possible.
That means that moving the striker on is likely to be a top priority ahead of the new season, with the idea of freeing up a substantial chunk of the wage bill likely to be hugely appealing to the club’s financial heads.
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Whether Assombalonga will attract the desired interest for such a substantial fee is up for debate, but that’s a bridge that Middlesbrough will need to cross.
The club simply aren’t getting value for money from their record signing at present and so that means that offloading him has to be the only option available.
After all, that will free up funds to sign two, or maybe even three new additions who better suit the philosophy that Jonathan Woodgate is hoping to instil.
It’s certainly not the happy ending that Middlesbrough Football Club were hoping for when they forked out on one of the Championship’s most potent attackers, but given the circumstances it’s time to cut their losses, learn from their mistakes and move on to a welcome new chapter in the club’s history.