WHERE ARE we? What’s happening? Why aren’t Boro signing people? How can you NOT have Vossen in the bag when he is practically crying like Neymar in a press conference and begging to be released from his Genk nightmare?
Buying footballers is not an exact science. And it is certainly not like any other transaction. It is not a case of Steve Gibson doing a trolley dash round Player 4 U, throwing two strikers, a right-back and a dynamic midfielder with a big bushy beard and then getting his card out at the check out. Cash-back sir?
Of course it could be like that. Boro could go out and blow their entire budget tomorrow. But they wouldn’t necessarily get the players they want. That takes time. It takes long and difficult wrangling to win over players, clubs, agents, brothers to the move. And girlfriends. Everything has to be right to win players hearts and minds.
And it is not just about money, although that is important. Given the shifting finances in football and the tightening screw of FFP this could be Boro’s last big chance to build a team capable of making a serious challenge for promotion. And Steve GIbson is ready to give it a crack. It could be the last chance to spend money and make a difference. They have to do it properly rather than quickly.
Now, they could go out and say to Genk: “alright, we’ll split the difference and give you £5m” … but that could be the whole budget. And then what about the problem at right-back? What about another striker? What about the creative midfielder? What about cover at left-back? What about the players they are trying to bring in from Chelsea? A trophy signing now to appease people who have got themselves into a frenzy (over a player many people haven’t even see play) could ruin a carefully researched shopping strategy.
Vossen is a player Boro are keen on. He is a long term target has been endlessly scouted for the past two years. There will be a dossier as thick as a Harry Potter novel on Gibbo’s desk. They deal came very close last August and after the talks that took place then the player like the people at Boro, likes the set-up and believes he would flourish here. He has told Genk he wants to leave and Boro are his first choice destination. In that sense Boro are pushing at an open door.
Likewise Danny Graham. He too has indicated he would like to be at Boro next season and Sunderland are ready to cut their losses and let him go for a very reasonable £1m. Both of those players are ‘on the back burner’. The groundwork for those deals are done and they can be pushed through quickly if need be and if/when finances allow.
But Boro have other targets they want to secure first. Who could be better than Vossen the ITK mob cry? What does that even mean? Better in what sense? Better stats on Championship Manager? More goals in Belgium? Better as the demanding focal point in a 4231? The important thing is that the players who come in are the best possible fit with the style Aitor Karanka wants to play. They have to fit exactly into his system, they have to fit his philosophy and methodology. They have to buy into the project.
The manager has identified his priority targets and the club are trying to get them. That seems to me to be a responsible strategy. Targets can’t be crowd-sourced. They have to be players who the manager wants, who have the skill set and mentality to take part in a promotion push. And they have to be in the order he want them. If he doesn’t get Player A then they may not get the best out of Player B so Player C could suddenly become the better option. It is about building the best possible team. That is all that matters.
That has to be done carefully and to a plan. The club want the best possible players they can get that tick as many of Karanka’s boxes as possible but within a limited budget . They want players who offer value for money and will have a resale value but who also have the ability to deliver now. They are strict criteria. It is not easy. You don’t just flick through the brochure. There is no “buy now” option. Unless you want to or can afford to pay over the odds that is. These things take time.
Yes, that time ticking prompts dark fears for once bitten Boro fans and brings with it echoes of previous failures, or targets that drifted, bids that were hi-jacked, bids that were gazumped. It is counter to a fan’s natural instinct but we have to be patient and let the professionals get on with it. The manager and chairman are not fools. They have to make the call. And they are under far more pressure to get it right than we are. And they are trying very, very hard to do that.
I can only tell you what I have been told from on high: there are several options being pursued simultaneously and the club believe some of them are now reaching a conclusion. They are not the names that are all over the press – although the club are keeping those channels open and those possibilities alive. Which is sensible.
My understanding is that their top target has been to Rockliffe and loves it. He has had talks with Karanka and is impressed. Both camps have broadly agreed in principle and while the deal needs a bit of fine-tuning, they hope to conclude it “soon”. Hopefully in time for the player to join up with the squad in Marbella. No names, no pack drill.
Let’s hope it is done quickly. Then we can start fretting about a right-back.
TYPICAL…. write something urging patience then the phone goes to say the deal is done.