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By ESPN Staff

Viduka to start contract talks at Middlesbrough

Middlesbrough will sit down with striker Mark Viduka next month in a bid to agree a new deal - amid continuing speculation that his future lies away from the Riverside Stadium.

The 31-year-old's agent, Steve Kutner, was today quoted saying the Australian international - who is in the final few months of his existing contract - could leave in the next fortnight because no offer has yet been made.

However, manager Gareth Southgate has repeatedly told the former Leeds frontman he wants to retain his services.

And chief executive Keith Lamb today insisted disucsions will seriously begin in earnest once the search for reinforcements during the transfer window is over.

Lamb said: 'Both Mark and Steve Kutner are well aware of our position, and that is that we want to extend his contract beyond its expiry in the summer.

'Gareth could not have made his admiration for Mark more clear and both Mark and the fans know the manager wants him to stay.

'With all of its attendant issues brought on by the transfer window, January is not the time to sit down and discuss the future of a player already under contract.

'Everyone is aware of the difficult season we have had so far. Players and staff are dedicating all of their time and energy to our improving position on the pitch.

'Once the transfer window is closed, we will be only too pleased to sit down with Mark's advisor to discuss his future.'

Viduka has been a key figure in Boro's recent revival - they have taken 10 of the last 15 Barclays Premiership points they have contested to ease away from the relegation fight - and former team-mate Southgate has been delighted with his contribution.

Just yesterday as he prepared for tonight's FA Cup third round replay against Hull, the manager said: 'There is no movement in my view of it in that I would like him to stay, not just until the end of this season, but beyond that.'

In the meantime, Southgate will continue his efforts to strengthen his squad.

The Teessiders are currently in discussions with South Korean side Pohang Steelers over a move for 27-year-old striker Lee Dong-Gook and hope to tie up a deal within days.

They are understood too to have an interest in Benfica midfielder Manuel Fernandes, although are unlikely to come up with the cash to make an immediate £6million swoop.

The 20-year-old, who spent the first half of the season on loan at Portsmouth, is being tracked by several Premiership clubs.

However, Boro are hoping to broker an initial loan deal with a view to a permanent move.