Middlesbrough manager Garry Monk has intimated that he is trying to sign Lewis Baker following reports that the Chelsea midfielder is set to choose between three Championship clubs all vying for his signature.
The Northern Echo reported on Wednesday evening (9 August) that Baker was set to move to the Riverside Stadium on a two-year loan deal, with 'Boro having granted permission for Marten de Roon to speak to former club Atalanta after accepting an offer from the Serie A outfit worth in the region of €15m (£13.5m, $17.6m).
Goal subsequently claimed that second-tier rivals Reading and Birmingham City also remained in the hunt for the England Under-21 international, who was initially expected to reveal his decision on Thursday.
Aston Villa were credited with an interest, while offers from unnamed Premier League clubs are said to have been discounted amid fears over a lack of regular playing time.
Quizzed on Baker during a press conference held before promotion favourites Middlesbrough's first home match of the season against newly-promoted Sheffield United this weekend, Monk said: "He's a target and one of many that we've had throughout the summer months. We'll see where that will get to within the coming days."
On De Roon, he said: "The update on that is we've allowed him to speak to another club and that's where it's at right now. Nothing is 100% at this moment in time. We've allowed him to speak to another club and there are still some things we need to do in terms of incomings and outgoings."
Another loan move for Baker always appeared to be in the offing following spells with Sheffield Wednesday, Milton Keynes Dons and a two-year stint in the Eredivisie with Vitesse Arnhem. However, new arrival Tiemoue Bakayoko's knee injury coupled with the sales of Nemanja Matic and Nathaniel Chalobah have left Chelsea looking somewhat thin in terms of central midfield options as they reportedly pursue deals for Danny Drinkwater and Ross Barkley.
Baker travelled with the rest of Antonio Conte's squad for their pre-season tour of the Far East last month following his exertions at the European Under-21 Championship and featured as a substitute against both Arsenal and Inter Milan. Speculation that he was about to head back out on loan appeared to be confirmed when he was left out of the matchday squad for the Community Shield, with 19-year-old Kyle Scott selected instead as bench cover for N'Golo Kante and Cesc Fabregas.
Middlesbrough have already strengthened heavily to boost their chances of making an immediate return to the top-flight, with the likes of Britt Assombalonga, Martin Braithwaite, Jonny Howson, Ashley Fletcher, Darren Randolph and Cyrus Christie all arriving. The Teesiders are also said to be confident of seeing off stiff competition for the loan signing of Liverpool winger Sheyi Ojo and have engaged in talks over a deal for Birmingham City defender Ryan Shotton.