Although Middlesbrough’s return to the Premier League for the 2016/17 season proved to be a disappointment – as the club suffered relegation – there were some positives to take away from the last 12-months, not least the promise that Ben Gibson showed in the top-flight.
The 24-year old was a rock for Boro in central defence, making 41 appearances across all competitions and featuring in all 38 Premier League fixtures.
His performances did not go unnoticed, and Gibson earned a call-up to the England squad for the first time in his career, although he is yet to make his debut under Gareth Southgate.
Boro are hoping that Gibson remains at the Riverside for the club’s return to the Championship, but the race to sign the defender is beginning to gather pace, with Stoke City reportedly tabling a £12m bid.
£12m is likely to fall short of Boro’s valuation of Gibson, but the defender must convince his boyhood club to let him move back to the Premier League, despite his connections to the Riverside club.
At 24, and with one season of top-flight football under his belt, Gibson needs to be playing in the Premier League regularly to continue his development, not only at club level, but also international level.
Gibson has done extremely well to force his way into Southgate’s England squad, and with the World Cup in Russia coming at the end of next season, it is likely the defender will only be picked if he is playing regular top-flight football.
It may be hard for Gibson to turn his back on Boro with the club heading into the Championship, particularly as they are his boyhood club and owned by his uncle, Steve Gibson. However, if the 24-year old is to reach his potential and make a breakthrough on the international scene, he must force a move this summer.