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Middlesbrough will demand at least £5 million for Paddy McNair with Championship rivals Stoke City expected to offer the Northern Ireland international an escape route out of the Riverside, according to the Belfast Telegraph.

If Neil Warnock has no place in his starting XI for a Ballyclare-born 25-year-old, then Michael O’Neil would jump at the chance to hand him a fresh start at the Bet365 Stadium.

It was O’Neil, after all, who handed McNair his debut for the Northern Ireland national team in 2015.

And, after four years and 34 caps together, reports from across the sea suggest that a reunion could be on the cards in Staffordshire.

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The Belfast Telegraph reports that Stoke are keen to raid fellow Championship strugglers Middlesbrough for the one-time Manchester United prospect.

McNair has started just three league games since Warnock returned to the dugout with Boro, playing a grand total of 36 minutes during their last two outings against Reading and Cardiff City.

Do not make the mistake in assuming the north east outfit will let McNair leave on the cheap, however.

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Middlesbrough want at least £5 million and are hoping to make back the fee they paid local rivals Sunderland for his signature two years ago.

Interestingly, McNair is the latest in a series of high-profile Championship players linked with a move to a Stoke side desperate to avoid a repeat of a disastrous 2019/20 season.

O’Neil would also love to work with Jamal Lewis and Chris Brunt again, at club level this time.

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In other news, ‘Technical footballer who can play football’ will reportedly leave Rangers on loan