Stewart Downing is set to leave Middlesbrough this January as the club have made the left-footed midfielder available for loan, according to BBC Tees.
Downing, now 32, was a product of Middlesbrough’s famed youth academy which has produced players such as James Morrison, Lee Cattermole and more recently Ben Gibson. The Middlesbrough-born left winger played over 150 games in his first spell at his hometown club before relegation saw him switch to Aston Villa in the summer of 2009. Downing made his return to Teesside in July 2015 as Aitor Karanka looked to build a team capable of taking Middlesbrough to the Premier League.
Downing played a big part last season, featuring in 45 games as Boro were promoted from the Championship after a dramatic final day draw against promotion rivals Brighton. Despite appearing in 17 league games this season, he's has had only managed one start in the past two months as the impact of Adama Traore has seen him fall down the pecking order. With a lack of game time, Downing will be allowed to leave the club on loan until the summer, as Steve Gibson seems unwilling to sanction a permanent deal after tireless work to resign the winger from West Ham only 18 months ago.
Downing has interest from Premier League, China and America
Regardless of people’s opinions on his ability at 32, there’s no doubt that Downing is still a well respected name both in English and international football. The Gazette claimed that there was interest from a number of Premier League clubs, with clubs in America and China also monitoring the current situation. After spending all of his career in the Premier League, it’s unlikely that Downing will want to drop back down into the Championship with a club other than Middlesbrough.
Newly appointed Crystal Palace boss Sam Allardyce, who is said to be a big fan of midfielder following his spell at West Ham, may look to make Downing his first signing as he attempts to steer Palace to safety. However, with Middlesbrough sitting just one place above Allardyce’s new club, Gibson may not want to loan the player to another relegation rival. There’s no doubt Middlesbrough are already a couple of players light in the wide position, so the exit of Downing would leave Karanka with very limited choice of wide men. Therefore, the news of the club’s willingness to let their local-hero leave on loan may suggest that new signings are imminent.
It’s understood that Bojan and Gerard Deulofeu are targets and both Gibson and Karanka will be keen to strike a deal before allowing Downing to depart. Odds were also dramatically slashed on Robert Snodgrass moving to the Riverside Stadium this month, with Middlesbrough second favourites to sign the Scottish international behind West Ham, who reportedly had a £3m move rejected last week.