Could Jordan Rhodes be on his way back to the Championship?
The former Huddersfield Town hot shot scored six times in 18 games last season to help push Middlesbrough into the Premier League.
But Boro boss Aitor Karanka, who splashed out an initial £9m on the 26-year-old from Blackburn Rovers last January, has started him in only one top-flight game.
And Rhodes has made only three further appearances from the bench, with former Manchester City star Alvaro Negredo, on loan from Valencia, the preferred pick.
That has alerted to host of suitors, with Town’s Championship rivals Aston Villa said to be keen.
Villa’s former Town boss Steve Bruce wanted to bring Rhodes to Hull City when he was in charge there.
Karanka has urged Rhodes, who scored 87 goals for Town between 2009-12, to be patient.
“Jordan has waited a long time to be in the Premier League,” he said of the player Town sold to Blackburn for £8m.
“Why give that up now? I want him to succeed here and not listen to other clubs saying they might want him.”
That said, the Spanish manager could still be willing to listen to offers for Rhodes, who has 13 Scotland caps.
Town paid Ipswich Town £400,000 for the player in the close-season of 2009.
With a 20% sell-on clause yielding £200,000, they reportedly scooped a further £400,000 as Boro’s promotion triggered an additional £2m payment to Blackburn, for whom he netted 85 times.
Middlesbrough are 15th in the table.
They host second-placed Chelsea on Sunday.