According to Sky Sports News, Leeds United fullback Luke Ayling has popped up on the radar of Championship rivals Middlesbrough United.
The right back has made 14 appearances in the Championship this season, starting just eight games. He has largely been on the bench since the end of September, but recently has not even stepped on the pitch at all – only coming on for one or two minute cameos at the end of games.
A sharp turnaround from earlier this season where he was first choice and had a goal and assist in his first five games of the campaign.
Middlesbrough are interested in signing Leeds defender Luke Ayling 🔴👇 pic.twitter.com/iewkAEoKXY
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 3, 2024
He has since then been replaced by Leeds United youngster Archie Gray, a midfielder who has been given a new role at fullback.
Daniel Farke believes Gray playing at fullback is to offer the team something different tactically, with the player often taking up positions in midfield on the ball. The German coach also said this kind of versatility will only help Gray in his
Should Ayling leave Elland Road?
Luke Ayling has not played enough minutes under Daniel Farke this season despite being a key contributor to Leeds in the past few seasons – including their Premier League campaign.
This season, he has fallen down the pecking order behind Archie Gray, a natural midfield player who has been given an orthodox fullback role.
It was reported late last year that Farke was considering offering Ayling a one-year extension to his current deal but that looks like something currently off the table.
With his contract expiring this summer, Leeds United have two options: agree a cut price deal to sell Ayling this January or lose him on a free transfer in July.
Losing one of the longest serving players currently at the club would be emotional for Leeds United fans, but a move for all parties could be the best step in Ayling’s career.
A great servant to Leeds United
Should this be the end of Luke Ayling at Leeds, there is no question it has been an incredible ride.
Ayling signed for United from Bristol City in 2016 for just £250,000, a deal that has turned out to be one of the greatest transfers in the history of the club.
The hard-working right-back has been a regular in the Leeds team every season up until the current one, helping the club back to the Premier League in the 2019-20 season under Marcelo Bielsa.
Ayling will be remembered as part of those famous Bielsa years, with the club finishing ninth in their first season back in the top-flight for 16 years – some even touting Ayling for an England call-up at this stage.
But like all players, age has caught up with Ayling who doesn’t now have the speed and energy he once had. There is no question those years under Bielsa’s all-action style have taken its toll.
Nevertheless, if this is the end, Ayling will be remembered fondly at Elland Road and although it looks likely he will join a Championship rival, the majority, if not all, Leeds fans will be wishing him well. Thank you Luke, and good luck.