Jonathan Woodgate has advised the seven Middlesbrough players in the final year of their contracts - including the Leeds United linked Daniel Ayala - not to burn their bridges as their deals run down.
Leeds are one of the clubs said to be showing an interest in Ayala ahead of the January transfer window.
And it is claimed that Middlesbrough are ready to cash in on the Spaniard, knowing that they cannot match the terms of his current contract.
But even if Ayala - as well as his Boro teammates Ryan Shotton, George Friend, Jonny Howson, Adam Clayton, Marvin Johnson and Rudy Gestede - does feel unsettled at the Riverside Stadium, Woodgate does not want to see tools downed.
“It can be unsettling for the players, not knowing where their future is, but their job is to play for the club they’re at now, it’s as simple as that,” said the former Leeds defender turned Middlesbrough manager, as quoted by The Northern Echo. “They can’t look to the future because you never know what’s going to happen in football.
“Your job is to focus on the here and now, and what you don’t want to do is burn your bridges. You’ve got to keep on being professional and working as hard as you can, and doing the right things. If you’re professional about what you have to do, questions about what might happen in the future shouldn’t matter.
“I’ve got strong characters in that dressing room, and if you look at the seven lads who are out (of contract), they’re pretty much all senior players. They know the craic, they know what it is.”
With Middlesbrough at the opposite end of the Championship table to third-placed Leeds, some players may be wary of committing to the Teesside club so soon.
And Woodgate could not say whether or not individual contract situations will be resolved quickly.
“I’ll have a say on who stays,” he added. “With the seven lads being out of contract, I’ll have a say over who stays out of them. My head’s on the chopping block, and there are some really good players in that list of seven, some really good players.
“Is there any chance of it being resolved quickly? You’re asking the wrong man. If we have news of something, we’ll tell you. I’m sure Neil [Bausor, the Middlesbrough chief executive] and the chairman are speaking with representatives of players, I’m sure that’s happening. But when we’ve got some news, I’ll let you know.”
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