Middlesbrough winger Stewart Downing has been informed by new manager Garry Monk that he is free to leave the club this summer ahead of the upcoming campaign.
It has become clear that the former England international is not in Monk's plans for next season as he looks to get Boro back to the Premier League at the first time of asking.
An impressive career
Downing's career began at Boro when he broke through their academy system in 2001. During an eight year spell at the club, he scored 17 goals in 181 appearances. He then left the club permanently in 2009 as he joined Aston Villa where he scored nine goals in 63 appearances.
His big career move came in July 2011 when he made what was believed to be a £20 million move to Liverpool. However, his time at Anfield did not go as he had hoped as he only managed to find the back of the net three times in 65 appearances as he struggled to make an impact.
He decided to leave Liverpool and try and get his career back on track by joining West Ham United in August 2013 for a fee of around £5 million as he signed a four-year contract. He did manage to get his career back on track with the Hammers and was in fine form as he was being deployed in a more central role. He managed to score seven times in 69 appearances during his time at the club.
Downing then decided to make an emotional return to his boyhood club in July 2015 for a fee of £5.5 million which would rise to £7 million if Boro got promoted from The Championship. He scored four goals in his second spell at the club as he helped them regain promotion back to the top flight. However, this season did not go to plan as the club suffered immediate relegation. Downing rarely featured in the top flight and he also reportedly fell out with manager Aitor Karanka before his dismissal.
As well as a distinguished domestic career, Downing has also had opportunities to perform on the international stage. He has made a total of 35 appearances for his country but has not featured in the squad since November 2014 and is now unlikely to do so for the rest of his career.
Shaping his squad ahead of next season
It may come as a surprise to some that Downing is not in Monk's plans for next season due to his vast experience and due to the fact he can probably still perform at a decent level in The Championship.
Despite the fact he has two years left to run on the four-year contract he signed when he returned to the club two years ago, Boro are allowing him to look for another club.
However, Monk has always opted for a more youthful squad during his time in management. This was certainly the case at Leeds United where he agonisingly missed out on a place in the play-offs after a dismal run of form towards the end of last season.
He will be looking to avoid heading into the lottery of the play-offs this season as the expectation within the club is to achieve at least automatic promotion. Monk is yet to make any signings this summer but is said to be interested in acquiring the services of players such as Nottingham Forest striker Britt Assombalonga which shows he is looking for quality rather than quantity.