Boro crossing fingers over potential Bamford return

Matt Stead

Middlesbrough are hoping to make a breakthrough in their pursuit of Chelsea striker Patrick Bamford as head coach Aitor Karanka looks to strengthen his attacking options.

Boro are keeping their fingers crossed that a deal for the £6million-rated 23-year-old can be struck, although they are remaining cautious with sources having admitted they have been close for some time without an agreement being reached.

Bamford spent a successful season-long loan spell at the Riverside Stadium during the 2014-15 campaign, scoring 17 league goals as the club lost out on promotion to the Premier League in the play-off final at Wembley.

He has since been sent out to Crystal Palace, Norwich and Burnley – from where he was recalled at the weekend – but has played far less football than he would have liked and been unable to prove his worth. That does not mean Chelsea’s loan system has failed, however.

Karanka has kept an eye on him and with Chelsea boss Antonio Conte seemingly willing to let him go, Boro are ready to move.

The Teessiders have already completed a £6million swoop for Aston Villa frontman Rudy Gestede and are also maintaining an interest in unsettled Stoke playmaker Bojan Krkic.

Karanka worked with Bojan in the Spanish youth set-up and, although he has remained tight-lipped on his interest in him in recent weeks, it is understood he would like him.

However, Potters boss Mark Hughes insisted at the weekend that he wanted to keep the player and, while that may ultimately prove to be a bargaining tactic, the noises coming from Teesside in recent days have been less than confident.

While Karanka is attempting to reshape his squad – David Nugent has left for Derby, Tomas Mejias and Julien de Sart have gone out on loan, while Stewart Downing and Jordan Rhodes could yet follow – he is also having to protect the assets he wants to retain.

Reports of Leicester’s interest in midfielder Gaston Ramirez emerged over the weekend, prompting the Spaniard to insist the Uruguay international remains part of his plans.