Middlesbrough head coach Aitor Karanka has told Stewart Downing he can only leave Teesside this month if the deal is right for the club.
The 32-year-old has been unhappy at his lack of action in recent weeks and is understood to be looking for a loan move away from the Riverside Stadium during the January transfer window, with Crystal Palace leading the queue.
Karanka insists Downing remains part of his plans, having signed a four-year deal when he returned to his home-town club from West Ham during the summer of 2015, but admits he could go if the arrangement suits Middlesbrough.
The Spaniard said: “I have said always that (if) a player who wants to leave and Middlesbrough Football Club and another club agree the transfer...
“To find or to sell a player, to buy a player, to sign a player on loan, to bring in a player on loan from other places, all parties have to agree.
“If Stewart wants to leave and the clubs agree and everybody’s happy, then yes, of course.”
Karanka’s assertion that Downing has a future on Teesside has thrown the ball into Downing’s court, although it remains to be seen how keen Boro are to hold on to the player.
The midfielder prospered under Sam Allardyce at West Ham and the chance to work with him again in his new role as Palace boss could well prove attractive, although whether the Teessiders would sanction a switch to a direct rival in the battle for Premier League survival remains to be seen.
Asked about possible destinations, Karanka said: “If the club thinks that it’s good for the club, good for the player and good for the club, I can’t say anything.”
Striker David Nugent left for Derby this week and Jordan Rhodes could follow him out of the exit at the right price, with Karanka looking to add creativity in wide areas to his squad.
However, he was coy when asked about potential targets, declining to comment on Hull’s Robert Snodgrass, and said he would leave that side of the business to head of recruitment Victor Orta.
Karanka said: “Again, I can’t come here to say to Snodgrass or Jese (Rodriguez) or (Gerard) Deulofeu or Bojan (Krkic). It’s the same. The only thing that I know is that we have brought this season Victor Orta here to the club and I am pleased with him.
“He is working really well and I trust him 150 per cent. He knows what I think and I have told him I don’t want to know anything at the beginning because he knows my thoughts and when everything is more or less done, I will know.
“The aim is to finish the transfer market with a better squad than we have now.”