Middlesbrough ‘target’ Another £5m Star As Alternative

As such, Giles finished the campaign with 11 assists for Boro. Such an important player in such a specialised role, it’s of vital importance to Boro’s promotion hopes next season that they replace him adequately. Bangura will hope to be that man – and given that he started life as a winger, would surely back himself to do that.

It was only three years ago that Bangura first properly settled into the role of a left-back, having previously been a winger struggling to break into Cambuur, while still in the Dutch second division. Head coach Henk de Jong saw the potential, switching his role and after initially taking time to adapt, he provided four assists from March onwards in 2021 as they won promotion to the Eredivisie.

Making his Dutch top flight debut in 2021-22, Bangura started well, scoring twice in the opening eight games to leave the newly-promoted side eighth in the table. De Jong was full of praise for his left-back, saying at the time: ‘He is top, and I mean top of the Netherlands. A great player. Hopefully one day it will yield us a lot of money.’

Bangura, meanwhile, reflected: “It’s all new what’s happening to me now. In the second half of last season I caught the upward trend and it keeps going up, even now in the Eredivisie. That I was sitting on the bench in the KKD a year ago, I was impatient, and wanted to play. I did get positive signals from the trainer, but found it difficult. After the winter break, my chance came and I grabbed it with both hands.”

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Grab it he did. Bangura was one of the standout full-backs in the Eredivisie in 2021-22, with Feyenoord showing keen interest in re-signing him last summer. Cambuur would finish a respectable 12th to avoid relegation, and Bangura committed to the club by signing a new dealy.

Technical manager Foeke Booy praised Bangura’s development: “Alex is a textbook example of how you can achieve your goal with hard work and positive energy. This is also evident from his rapid transition to left-back and the opportunities he has there. If you see how he got in here and where he is now, that is worthy of a great compliment. Moreover, he is a very pleasant boy in the group and someone who actually fits well with the club in all respects.”

He finished he first season in the Eredivisie with three goals, but no official assists. Despite that, he was a regular outlet for chances for the Dutch side. Assists would come last season though, three in total, plus a goal. That should have been far more though. A disappointing season would see the side relegated from the top flight, but only after new head coach Sjors Ultee made him captain in December.

On that decision, the head coach said: “I told him to just be himself. I picked him because of his positive attitude, that he is always ahead of the game, the good relationship with the other player and his attitude of wanting to get better.”

All the above are good signs for Boro if they do decide to firm up their interest and bring Bangura to Boro – a move that shouldn’t prove too hard, given the club have accepted that a summer exit is inevitable for their star man this summer.

So too are his top-tier statistics. Despite playing in such a poor side, Bangura still ranked as one of the higher full-backs in the division for successful dribbles and attempted crosses across the division.

It’s interesting Boro have identified him too, in the same summer they also brought Rav van den berg in from the Netherlands, and just 12 months after they tried hard to sign striker Jorgen Strand Larsen from Groningen.

That pursuit came just weeks after then-manager Chris Wilder had new lead recruitment analysis Ashley Gill explain to journalists following a press conference the work Boro were doing to try to identify which foreign leagues they could find players better prepared for instant impact in the Championship.

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