Middlesbrough are considering making a move to sign Kilmarnock defender Stephen O’Donnell, according to the Daily Mail (via Daily Record).
The Mail reported over the weekend that Boro are lining up a move for the 27-year-old right-back, as he will be out of contract next summer and free to negotiate pre-contract agreements come the turn of the year.
O’Donnell has been an instrumental part of the Kilmarnock first team since he moved to Rugby Park in 2017, with 99 appearances to his name across all competitions along with six goals and 10 assists (TransferMarkt), while his last eight matches under Angelo Alessio have returned seven clean sheets.
The Aberdeen-born defender also earned his senior international debut in May 2018 after his maiden term at Kilmarnock saw O’Donnell feature in all but two of his new side’s regular-season Scottish Premiership encounters.
He now has 10 caps to his name for Scotland but could leave Rugby Park next summer as a free agent as he is yet to agree on an extension to the contract penned upon his arrival from Luton Town in 2017.
Middlesbrough were credited with an interest in a potential move back in the recent summer window, along with Derby County, Stoke City and Sheffield United following the Blades’ promotion into the Premier League (Daily Mail, via HITC), but no move was forthcoming for a man dubbed as ‘one of the best defenders north of the border’.
Celtic were likewise noted as an outfit potentially interested in making a deal as Kilmarnock could have looked to cash in while they could, but the Daily Record quelled the alleged interest in June.
As it is not noted whether Middlesbrough’s alleged lined up approach will be to Kilmarnock in January or directly to O’Donnell’s representatives over a pre-contract for the summer, it is hard to say what sort of impact a move could make on Boro.
Duties at right-back have so far been split between Anfernee Dijksteel and Jonny Howson in the Championship this term (WhoScored), and looking to replace the former so soon after his £2m (Northern Echo) summer arrival from Charlton Athletic would be an indicator toward Boro feeling they invested their money in the wrong man.
Dijksteel has been reasonably solid defensively in his first games in the North East, though, as the 22-year-old is averaging more tackles and successful tackles than Howson, as well as more interceptions, but trails his 31-year-old teammate for passes, dribbles, blocks and success in the air.
If Boro are considering O’Donnell for a pre-contract so that they can sign him as a free agent, the move would easily have more potential upsides, as he would be a low-budget risk on someone who can support and maybe challenge Dijksteel going forward with Howson moving aside.
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Middlesbrough fans, did your club move for the wrong right-back in the summer, or should O’Donnell be scrubbed from your radar now you have Dijksteel? Let us know in the comments below…
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