Liverpool are prepared to allow Stewart Downing to return to Middlesbrough in January when they will be able to find an able replacement for the England winger.

It had been reported that Downing could have moved to his former club before the end of the week as the deadline for Football League loan deals is open until Thursday evening.

Stewart Downing
Downing in action against Sunderland last season [Reuters]

The Sun believes that Middlesbrough are prepared to wait until the transfer window opens in the New Year as they are aware that Liverpool will want to recruit a suitable replacement.

It has been a nightmare spell on Merseyside for Downing who arrived for £20million just 18 months ago after a season in which he had excelled for Aston Villa.

The 28-year-old had contributed seven goals and nine assists in his 38 league appearances, but after joining Liverpool he was unable to muster a single goal or assist in the Premier League.

Downing has now fallen down the pecking order at Anfield, with new manager Brendan Rodgers seemingly suggesting that the winger was not part of his plans by saying he would only really be considered as a back-up left-back.

He has been a regular in European competition but has lost his place in the league side to Raheem Sterling and has made just four appearance in the Premier League this season.

A source close to Downing told The Sun that the winger would be prepared to move back to Teeside: "He'd love to help Boro and Mowbray will do everything to make it happen."

Liverpool are unlikely to bring in any money for the winger and a loan deal is still the most likely option as Middlebrough would need the Reds to pay the majority of his £80,000-a-week wages.

Rodgers will also use the January transfer window as a time to look for a suitable successor to Downing as the squad is already rather thin at Liverpool.