Middlesbrough defender Daniel Ayala has cast doubt over a potential January move to Leeds United, following rumours of interest in the Spaniard from Elland Road.
Ayala is one of several Boro players set to be out of contract in the summer, and according to the Northern Echo, could be presented with a route away from the Riverside Stadium by the Whites this month following long-held interest.
Middlesbrough chiefs are said to be expecting offers to come their way for the 29-year-old centre-half, who moved to the North East outfit from Norwich City in 2014 and has amassed 215 appearances at the club in all competitions.
Ayala has been a mainstay of Jonathan Woodgate’s plans at the Teessiders this term, with the defender called on to start 22 of his 24 Championship outings, in which he has scored two goals and recorded 31 successful tackles.
Being one of the Riverside outfit’s highest-earners has meant that Ayala has an uncertain future beyond the current campaign, and only a change in the Teessiders’ financial situation is expected to see the Spaniard offered new terms.
Stoke and Fulham were also said to be interested in a January move when we were linked with Ayala, but the defender doubts that he will be moving anywhere this month “unless something really big happens”.
“Of course, I see all the speculation,” Ayala said, via quotes by the Stoke Sentinel. “My friends send me all the stories and that is normal.
Would you back a move to sign Ayala in January?
“But really, I have to tell you that I only concentrate on Middlesbrough and I’m not thinking about leaving in January or anything like that.
“Unless something really big happens – and I don’t think it will – I will definitely be at Middlesbrough until the end of the season. I have been here [for] seven years and I’ve said before, I love this club.
“I don’t really think about going elsewhere. I just want to stay here, and let’s see what happens.”
No Middlesbrough centre-back has started as many league games this season as Ayala has, with Dael Fry opening 20 Championship fixtures and Ryan Shotton named in the starting line-up 11 times by Woodgate thus far.
But Ayala only ranks third for successful tackles per 90 minutes of the four centre-halves to have played more than 270 minutes in the second-tier for Boro this term, with Jonny Howson (2.7 from 3.3) and Shotton (1.5 from 1.9) eclipsing the Spaniard’s 1.3 from 1.5 attempts, per WhoScored data.
Ayala is also second to Howson for interceptions per 90 in the league (1.4 to 1.8), second to Fry for successful aerial duels (4.1 to 4.3), is third for shots blocked (0.7), though leads for clearances with 6.3.
In other Leeds United news, the club are looking to sell three senior players in the January window.