Leicester City are targeting a summer move for Middlesbrough’s Ben Gibson in a deal which could become a club-record signing.
Gibson is high on Leicester’s list of priorities for next season as they bid to finally end their lengthy search for a centre-half, with a move expected regardless of whether Middlesbrough avoid relegation from the Premier League.
Middlesbrough will demand around £30 million for the defender, who is the nephew of club chairman Steve Gibson, but he has been identified as a leading target for the summer by Leicester’s recruitment team.
The defending champions have been pursuing a new centre-half for the past 18 months and failed in a bid to sign Burnley’s Michael Keane last summer, with Everton now at the front of the queue to bag the England international.
Leicester also encountered problems in a deal for Anderlecht’s Kara Mbodji in January and eventually signed Udinese’s Molla Wague on deadline day. But Wague dislocated his shoulder on debut at Millwall, ruling him out for the season, to leave Leicester still short of defensive options.
Gibson, 24, has impressed for Boro this season and been watched by the likes of Liverpool, Chelsea and Stoke, earning a call-up to the senior England squad in April.
Middlesbrough are in grave danger of being relegated to the Championship yet have one of the best defensive records in the league, conceding only 37 goals.
Leicester are prepared to move for Gibson at the end of the season as they look to offer competition for Wes Morgan and Robert Huth, who have a combined age of 65.
Morgan is facing a desperate race against time to be fit for Leicester’s Champions League quarter-final second leg against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday.
The Leicester captain has missed the past five games with a back injury but manager Craig Shakespeare has admitted he could be fast-tracked to get him ready.
Huth is suspended for the second leg but Morgan could make his eagerly-awaited return as Leicester bid to reach the last four, following their 1-0 defeat at the Vicente Calderon Stadium.
On Thursday morning in Madrid, Morgan was being put through an intensive training regime by head physiotherapist Dave Rennie and it is thought he has an outside chance of being available.
Kasper Schmeichel, the goalkeeper, believes Leicester can extend their European adventure and knock out last season’s beaten finalists.
“Why not? We have always said that. European nights are something special, away nights and home nights in particular at the King Power have been fantastic for us,” he said.
“There is a semi-final of the Champions League on the line so I think everyone is very much up for the fight.
“We are in the game. That was the aim from the first leg. I don’t think we can take more belief than we already have. We have got more than enough belief.”
Leicester, meanwhile, have confirmed they are working with Uefa and the Spanish authorities as they investigate the ugly clashes involving fans and police before kick-off.
A number of supporters were arrested in the 24 hours leading up to the game and videos of skirmishes in the city’s Plaza Major have circulated on social media.
Spanish police have claimed that some officers were even attacked and Leicester have pledged to discover the “full facts” behind the trouble.
A Leicester spokesman said: "We are working with Uefa and the local authorities to establish the full facts of what took place and the reasons for the police response.
"We will also be liaising with travelling supporters before deciding on any course of action."
Uefa have charged Leicester's sports scientist Tom Joel with improper conduct for encroaching into Diego Simeone's technical area and handing out energy supplements to players.
Joel was sent to the stands for the offence and will also be banned from the touchline for the second leg.