Southgate close to Digard move

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate is close to making a breakthrough in his search for new players.

It is understood that talks over Paris St Germain midfielder Didier Digard’s proposed £4m switch to the Riverside Stadium are at an advanced stage, while other avenues are also being investigated.

Digard, 21, revealed yesterday that he expected developments within 48 hours, and while sources on Teesside have suggested that is perhaps a little optimistic, progress is being made.

Southgate has indicated that midfield will be his main concentration this summer following the departures of Fabio Rochemback and Gaizka Mendieta.

He had an interest in Chelsea’s Steve Sidwell, but seems likely to lose out to former club Aston Villa, who have been closing in on the Reading old boy for several days.

He admitted earlier this summer that Digard differed from many of his targets in the respect that he appears to be available rather than having to be prised away from his current employers.

Boro were today linked with Fulham’s Jimmy Bullard, although in a swap deal with full-back Luke Young.

While 29-year-old Bullard may fit the bill in terms of the experience and quality for which Southgate is looking to bolster his squad, he would be reluctant to allow Young to move in the opposite direction.

The former Tottenham defender proved a big hit last season after completing a £2.5m switch from White Hart Lane in July last year to solve a long-standing problem for the Teessiders.

With little experienced cover in that position, any decision to allow the 28-year-old to leave would be a big one, and Southgate has insisted he has little intention of selling any of his current crop, at least in the short-term.

Rochemback and Mendieta have been followed out of the door by striker Dong-Gook Lee and out-of-contract keeper Mark Schwarzer.

Southgate has hinted he will not replace the Australian with another number one, and will ask Ross Turnbull and Brad Jones to battle it out for the shirt while possibly recruiting another keeper for training purposes.

However, having strengthened in attack with the acquisitions of Afonso Alves, Tuncay Sanli, Mido and Jeremie Aliadiere inside the last 12 months, he is not looking to recruit another striker despite reports linking him with Everton’s Andrew Johnson.

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