As per a report in the Northern Echo, Middlesbrough are in pole position to sign Stewart Downing this summer, and could complete a deal this week prior to Boro’s return to pre-season training next Monday.
Championship side Boro, the club at which Downing started his career, have been linked with making a move for the 30-year-old for the last couple of weeks, and are looking to push through their interest following Dimitri Payet’s arrival at the Boleyn Ground.
The winger netted 21 goals and registered 31 assists in 226 games for Boro between 2003 and 2009, when he departed the Riverside to sign with Aston Villa. He has continued impressive top flight form since leaving, and it should be considered a real coup if Aitor Karanka is able to wrap up a deal for the West Ham man this summer.
Boro are one of three teams linked with moving for Downing, with the Daily Star reporting that Newcastle and Sunderland also want to sign him. He spent a loan spell with Sunderland when breaking through with Boro, whilst Newcastle are currently managed by Steve McClaren - who gave him his debut on Teesside.
Despite the Premier League interest, Middlesbrough are said to be leading the race for his signature, and are pushing harder than all the top flight clubs to get a transfer finalised. Sunderland have already seen an offer rejected by the Hammers, and Boro chairman Steve Gibson is stated in the report as upping his plans to secure a deal.
The report indicates that the Hammers are looking for at least £5 million to let go of Downing, and Boro are prepared to pay that much to sign a player who would be a statement of intent ahead of a promotion push next season.