Newcastle United have been linked with move for Middlesbrough defender Ben Gibson this summer, should they return to the Premier League.
The Magpies could even swap places with Gibson’s Teessiders for the 2017-18 campaign, with Boro’s top-flight future looking far from certain.
Gibson is one of managerless Boro’s hottest properties, and while they resisted any attempts to lure him away from the Riverside in January, they would have a harder job in the summer should they be relegated this season.
Chelsea and West Ham are believed to be keen on the £20m-rated defender, who can play at centre-back or left-back, but Newcastle have been quoted as 8/1 to land Gibson by BetVictor.
That still puts them behind the two London outfits, and the likes of the Manchesters City and United, but could indicate some interest on United’s part.
Rafa Benitez knows he has to strengthen his side for a Premier League campaign, and will have talks with owner Mike Ashley over the extent of his transfer budget at the end of the season.
However, it is perhaps unlikely that he will be willing - or able - to spend such a large amount on one defender, with attacking options thought to be the Spaniard’s priority.
Ciaran Clark and captain Jamaal Lascelles’ partnership at the back has been one of the foundations of United’s title bid this season, and although Benitez may feel he needs more options at the back, Gibson could be deemed too expensive.
But any move would at least offer the England Under-21 international the chance to stay in his native North East.