Middlesbrough boss Neil Warnock has pinpointed Joe Willock at the top of his hypothetical list of summer transfer targets, although he admits he will probably be tempted elsewhere.
The 21-year-old midfielder only featured seven times for his parent club Arsenal in the first half of this Premier League season, before his January loan move to Boro’s Northeast rivals Newcastle United.
Since then, Willock has netted three times in nine matches for Steve Bruce’s side, including crucial goals against West Ham and Tottenham.
Warnock told Teeside Live: “He’s a real top player. I like him, but he’s probably going to go for about £20m if they get him. The top ones are beyond us, so we have to look a little bit below or for someone we can nurture. I don’t mean that disrespectfully, but clubs in the Premier League will want them.”
Having endured a slightly disappointing mid-table campaign, Warnock is under no illusion that solid recruitment will be needed in the summer if his side are to compete for promotion next season.
Although he has admitted that Willock is most likely out of reach, one thing Middlesbrough could offer the youngster is guaranteed, productive first team minutes at a level where he would excel.
However, in all likelihood Warnock will have to turn his midfield attention towards someone slightly further back from the spotlight.
In order to attract such players, Boro will have to finish the season strongly, starting with a victorious away trip to relegation-scrapping Rotherham United this evening.