Neil Warnock’s Middlesbrough team could be a looking very different on the first day of the 2021-22 season.
After committing his future to the club for another campaign work is being done to ensure that the team is ready to hit the ground running, and ultimately challenge for promotion.
This summer will also mark the end of an era as the club sees off the last remaining traces of a rather expensive spell in the Premier League.
While no one who featured in the top flight is still with the club, Warnock’s squad still homes several big-money arrivals who joined the club in the immediate aftermath of suffering relegation.
The last 12 months has seen players such as Rudy Gestede, Daniel Ayala, George Friend and Adam Clayton leave the club after penning contracts on wage packets more akin to those on offer in the top flight, while others such as Jonny Howson and Marvin Johnson have since signed new deals on more affordable terms.
But for one player in particular it seems that a big decision will be made.
Britt Assombalonga joined the club in the summer of 2017 for a reported club-record fee of £15million and was seen as a flagship deal that would see Middlesbrough establish themselves as a dominant force in the Championship.
Unfortunately that didn’t quite happen.
Assombalonga has scored 48 goals in 157 appearances and while that’s certainly not a poor record, it’s not enough to deem his club-record arrival as a huge success.
Not only has the transfer fee been significant, but the striker has also been the club’s highest-earning player since dropping down to the Championship.
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It’s that which means that Middlesbrough have a big decision to make.
The last 12-24 months has seen the Teessiders cutting their cloth to a level that is sustainable in the second tier, and frankly Assombalonga’s wages don’t fall into that category.
For Gibson it’s a simple case of value for money and on recent evidence it seems impossible that a new contract on these current terms could be handed out.
That means that Middlesbrough’s only two options are to tempt Assombalonga into a wage cut or allow him to leave to free up some room on the wage bill.
Warnock certainly hasn’t seemed enamored by the striker’s performances this term and after stripping him of the captaincy it seems fairly clear that Assombalonga’s future will be away from the Riverside Stadium.
My personal view is that allowing him to move on is the best thing for all parties.
Assombalonga has looked disinterested and could probably do with a new challenge, while for Middlesbrough they’ll certainly benefit from getting him off the wage bill and replacing him with a signing that is better-suited to Neil Warnock’s set-up.
If the Teessiders are to challenge for promotion next term they’ll need a striker who can get at 15+ goals, and if that’s to happen they’ll need funds available to tempt them to the North East.