Middlesbrough's next transfer priority after Luke Ayling deal signals start of key summer

Middlesbrough will continue work trying to strengthen their squad after securing their first signing of the summer as Luke Ayling signed a two-year deal to stay at the club.

An early breakthrough for Boro, they worked quickly to secure the 32-year-old's services on a permanent deal amid interest from elsewhere after his successful spell on loan at the Riverside in the second half of last season. Though a deal between the two parties was agreed some time ago, Boro had to wait for Leeds United's season to finish on Sunday when they lost in the play-off final to Southampton, for official confirmation that Ayling would become a free agent this summer.

A really positive start to the summer transfer window - which doesn't officially open until June 14 - Ayling will be expected to compete with Tommy Smith next term, with the fellow right-back set to return from a long-term injury over the course of the summer.

READ MORE: Luke Ayling signs for Middlesbrough and becomes first summer signing after successful loan

As for what next for Boro, attention quickly turns to further strengthening Michael Carrick's squad to build on the positive foundations laid last term - though there is expected to be a little more patience required now. Ayling's deal was an easy one to wrap up, but, with the window not yet open and most players away enjoying summer breaks at the end of the campaign, it might be some time before the market really hots up.

Boro are believed to be in the market for a central midfielder, attacking midfield/forward and a striker. They are hoping to keep key players at the club this summer as well. But braced for big offers on players like Hayden Hackney and Rav van den Berg, they have contingency plans in place should the scenario arise where selling such players becomes a necessity.

Midfield is believed to be their next priority, with the striker signing one in particular that they plan to take their time with. Tottenham striker Will Lankshear has already been linked with a loan move to Boro this summer though club sources indicated that while he had been scouted, they weren't in a position of wanting to rush a decision.

As is often the case, what's truly available in the market only really becomes apparent a little later in the summer when squads reconvene and managers start to have conversations with players about their future. As such, Boro are likely to wait and assess exactly who will be available to them this summer at a viable price rather than make any rash decisions.

They feel protected in that sense by the fact that Emmanuel Latte Lath ended the season in such fine form, while hopes remain high that after a frustrating campaign with injury, Josh Coburn will return to the fold this summer hungry to push hard for more game time.

Latte Lath, meanwhile, is one such key man who has interest in his services from elsewhere and though his agent has said they won't court a move from Boro this summer, he didn't completely rule one out. In a further boost to Boro, however, Latte Lath revealed his delight in seeing Ayling rejoin the club after the pair struck up a fruitful partnership on the pitch, and a friendship off it. Posting on his Instagram story after Monday's announcement on Ayling, the Ivorian international wrote: "Here we go my man."

As well as continuing their preparation work for the upcoming summer transfer window, Boro are still hopeful of securing two important contract extensions this summer too. Head coach Michael Carrick and key man Riley McGree both have just 12 months remaining on their deals at Boro.

Carrick is understood to have been close to an agreement with the club over a new deal since initial conversations were had around the turn of the year. McGree, too, has held positive conversations with the club on a new deal before he suffered a season-ending injury that required surgery. He was given an early holiday while he recuperated over the summer, with the 25-year-old spending an extended period back in Australia.

While both Carrick and McGree remain on their end-of-season breaks ahead of the start of pre-season, Boro will hope to seal contract extensions for both as soon as possible to avoid uncertainty over their longer-term futures developing over the summer.