HAVE Middlesbrough fans seen the last of Julio Arca in a Boro shirt?
The popular midfielder, a strong contender to be Player of the Year, missed Monday’s stunning 3-0 win at Cardiff and will sit out Saturday’s final home game against Doncaster after having an operation on a knee problem.
Boro boss Tony Mowbray has declared his ambition to keep the Argentine at the Riverside, though has admitted it would have to be on reduced terms.
When Arca travelled down the A19 from Sunderland to Teesside, he was joining a Premier League club and gained a lucrative contract as a result.
But cash-strapped Boro, who are due to receive the last of their Premier League “parachute payments” this summer, are not so much tightening the purse-strings as strangling them.
“Julio has got great quality and we’ve talked long and hard,” said Mowbray.
“He knows our financial predicament, he knows where we are – he will have decisions to make in the summer.
“He knows we’d love to keep him – that’s common knowledge.
“Our offer will be what it is though and I’m sure he’ll have financially better offers.
“He has decisions to make about his life and his family and what’s right for Julio Arca.”
What has been right for Arca, and for Boro if he stays, is that he needed surgery on a knee complaint.
By having the op now, before this season ends, it is expected that he will be fit in time for the 2011-12 campaign when, hopefully, he will still be a Boro player.
Even without the midfielder schemer, Boro ran riot at Cardiff on Monday night – three goals in the first 21 minutes sweeping them to a sensational win.
Boro have now lost only once in 11 outings and Mowbray wants to end on a high at the Riverside.
“We’re at home on Saturday in front of our own fans and now we’ve got to try to finish with a win against Doncaster,” said Mowbray.
The Boro boss has transformed the club’s fortunes since taking over from Gordon Strachan, whose tenure was threatening to turn into a disaster.
Mowbray said the transformation has been a team effort, with the coaching staff instilling belief into the squad.
“It’s all about good footballers,” said Mowbray modestly.
“Good players win games and bad players lose them.
“Sometimes it’s about changing the mentality, giving them more belief, a different way of playing, different ideas, different training regimes and, of course, confidence.”
Mowbray already has one eye on next season and while he knows he may have to move on several big wage-earners, he believes the emergence of the club’s young stars can balance out any departures.
“If the bulk of the squad is still here there are a lot of positives,” he said.
“And the main positive is that the young players have come in, people like Richie Smallwood, and done fantastically.
“The young players have got an important part to play.”