Southgate bids to discourage suitors
Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate insists he is not worried about speculation over his big names because it means he has good players.
The 37-year-old was today adamant that the Teessiders have received no bids for any member of their current squad amid suggestions that Tottenham and Newcastle are ready to step up their respective interest in Stewart Downing and Jonathan Woodgate.
Southgate, who is currently trying to make his own transfer breakthrough with Brazilian strikers Afonso Alves and Fred among his targets, has spent much of the last few weeks dealing with rumours that Downing in particular could leave the club.
He said: 'It suggests to me we have got some good players. It doesn't annoy me because there is nothing you can do about it.
'Teams will speculate, teams might try to bid for your players - as yet, they haven't - but you get enquiries about your players all the time.
'In the end, we have the decisions and we have the say as to whether we decide to keep or sell players.
'It certainly doesn't annoy me. You look at your squad of players and if quite a few of them are attracting interest, that's a good sign, I would certainly say that.
'You look at certain other teams and say who would you take, and maybe there aren't too many.
'It certainly doesn't concern me at all.'
Spurs' interest in Downing is well known while new Newcastle boss Kevin Keegan is a long-term admirer of Woodgate, handing him a senior international debut while England boss in 1999.
However, with Southgate under no pressure to sell and neither club having yet made a formal approach with just a week of the transfer window remaining, time is running out.
Asked how difficult it is to deal with the constant speculation, Southgate said: 'It's very easy because they are all contracted to us.
'I am not under pressure to sell anybody and nobody leaves the club unless we think it is the right thing for the club.
'At the moment, we haven't had any bids for any of our players, so that makes life very easy.'
That was confirmed by chief executive Keith Lamb, the man who carries out much of the work on Boro's transfer dealings.
He said: 'We are working very hard to try to strengthen the squad.
'As always, it's not easy to make progress in the January transfer window, but we will keep working at making a breakthrough.
'It's the last week of the transfer window, so it's the silly season and speculation is rife. But we have had no offers for any of our players.'
However, both situations could change within days as the pressure to complete deals mounts.
The Dutch FA's ruling that AZ Alkmaar have no hold on Heerenveen striker Alves, with whom they claimed to have signed a pre-contract agreement, opens the way for Boro to make their move.
However, while the 26-year-old has already visited the Riverside Stadium and has indicated his willingness to move, a deal still needs to be done and a work permit secured.
Southgate said: 'As far as I am aware, there has been a ruling in Holland that he is not an Alkmaar player signed and sealed, so he is a player who is available on the transfer market.
'He is one of a few we are making enquiries about and if we make progress, we will let everybody know.'
But he was less optimistic over Lyon striker Fred, 24, adding: 'He is one of the players we are looking at.
'Most deals seem very complicated, that seems one of the most complicated, so it is probably unlikely, if I am to be honest.'