Middlesbrough 'target' examined as Boro eye Ryan Giles transfer alternative

Middlesbrough ‘target’ examined as Boro eye Ryan Giles transfer alternative

It was not a shock to see Middlesbrough linked with another option after they seemed to lose out on bringing back Ryan Giles this summer.

The reliable Telegraph reported that Boro were negotiating with SC Cambuur from the Netherlands over a deal for Sierra Leone left-back Alex Bangura. With only a year left on his contract, and after going down from the Eredivisie, Bangura has made it clear that he wants to leave this summer, and England is reportedly his favoured destination.

Clubs in the Eredivisie, Serie A and Belgium are said to be keen, and newly promoted Italian side Frosinone have already had an offer turned down. Feyenoord were also interested in signing him again last summer – they being the club where Bangura started his career.

No fee is believed to have been settled with Boro yet, and Bangura was part of Cambuur’s training camp on Monday morning. It came after his latest pre-season appearance in which the attacking full-back set up a goal for his side, only highlighting further why it seems Boro have picked him as a potential alternative to Giles, who looks likely to join Luton as they used their Premier League money to bid higher than Boro could afford.

The left-back role became such a specialised role at Boro since Michael Carrick’s arrival. Giles, signed initially on loan from Wolves last summer as a wing-back in a five, was a regular in the role and, despite being part of a back four, was allowed to attack the left flank freely thanks to the balance provided by the more defensive-minded Tommy Smith on the right.

As a result, Giles ended the season with 11 assists for Boro. Such a key player in such a specialised role, it’s crucial to Boro’s promotion chances next season that they replace him well. Bangura will hope to be that man – and given that he began as a winger, he would surely back himself to do that.

It was only three years ago that Bangura first really settled into the role of a left-back, having previously been a winger struggling to break into Cambuur, while still in the Dutch second division. Head coach Henk de Jong saw the potential, changing his role and after initially taking time to adjust, he provided four assists from March onwards in 2021 as they won promotion to the Eredivisie.

Making his Dutch top flight debut in 2021-22, Bangura started well, scoring twice in the first eight games to leave the newly-promoted side eighth in the table. De Jong was full of praise for his left-back, saying at the time: ‘He is top, and I mean top of the Netherlands. A great player. Hopefully one day it will bring us a lot of money.’

Bangura, meanwhile, reflected: “It’s all new what’s happening to me now. In the second half of last season I caught the upward trend and it keeps going up, even now in the Eredivisie. That I was sitting on the bench in the KKD a year ago, I was impatient, and wanted to play. I did get positive signals from the trainer, but found it difficult. After the winter break, my chance came and I grabbed it with both hands.”

Technical manager Foeke Booy praised Bangura’s development: “Alex is a textbook example of how you can achieve your goal with hard work and positive energy. This is also evident from his rapid transition to left-back and the opportunities he has there. If you see how he got in here and where he is now, that is worthy of a great compliment. Moreover, he is a very pleasant boy in the group and someone who actually fits well with the club in all respects.”

He finished he first season in the Eredivisie with three goals, but no official assists. Despite that, he was a regular outlet for chances for the Dutch side. Assists would come last season though, three in total, plus a goal. That should have been far more though. A disappointing season would see the side relegated from the top flight, but only after new head coach Sjors Ultee made him captain in December.

On that decision, the head coach said: “I told him to just be himself. I picked him because of his positive attitude, that he is always ahead of the game, the good relationship with the other player and his attitude of wanting to get better.”

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