MIDDLESBROUGH have warned clubs that if they wait until January to bid for Stewart Downing, they could face increased competition.
The England winger is currently sidelined with a foot injury and will miss the start of the new season.
Tottenham Hotspur, Aston Villa, Everton and Liverpool have all been linked with the 24-year-old, who is valued at around Â£12million by Boro.
Their manager, Gareth Southgate said: “He won’t be fit for the start of the season, but it depends whether clubs want to take him now.
“Come January, there might be four or five other clubs involved.
“That’s for other clubs to decide. We will just focus on getting him fit as quickly as we can.
“He went to see the surgeon, who did the operation on Tuesday – and he was very pleased with the progress.
“He is where he hoped he would be, perhaps a little bit further ahead.
“We still think it will be the later part of the year, but he is progressing very well.”
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