Middlesbrough look to bolster squad after losing loan duo

Jack Stephens and Bruno Zuculini have both returned to their parent clubs

Middlesbrough boss Aitor Karanka feels he needs to bolster his midfield and defensive cover after loanees Jack Stephens and Bruno Zuculini returned to their parent clubs.

Stephens has been recalled by Southampton, whilst Argentine Zuculini is returning to Manchester City.

Centre-half Stephens, who can also play in midfield, joined Boro on a season-long deal from Southampton in the summer but he has failed to make a major impact on the first-team and the Saints decided late last year - as HITC Sport revealed - to bring him back this month and look for another club.

Stephens made just one league appearance for Boro, and that was coming off the bench against Charlton back in October. Zuculini found things easier on Teesside following his initial move in October, which was extended to this month.

The Argentine has started three games but he has not featured for nearly a month and has opted to return to City.

Now Karanka is looking for cover in both defensive and midfield, but admits he could very well sign one player who could cover both positions.

“We've lost Zuculini and Jack Stephens and we are searching to replace them, the central defensive/midfield position is a difficult position to fill," Karanka told the club's official website.

“We need one more midfielder and a central defender. We need players who can play in both positions but if we can find one player who can play in both positions then all the better."

Away from positions that need cover, Boro are also in for a new striker with Ross McCormack his number one target and he admits they know their targets.

“We’ve been working since September because we know we have to be ready. We know players in England and in other countries and we have a good list of names so you never know,” he said.

“It's a good attraction for players where we are at the moment, but they also know how difficult it is to play here.

“The first transfer window I was here was a nightmare, but our position is completely different now.

“The players who will come will come knowing they are coming to a good team.”

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