The 32-year-old joined Leeds in 2016 for just £750k from fellow Championship club Bristol City. After the arrival of the enigmatic Whites boss Marcelo Bielsa, Ayling’s career soared, being utilised as a marauding right back in Bielsa’s promotion campaign out of the second tier.
The fullback’s career reached new heights, managing 93 appearances in the Premier League for the Yorkshire outfit, scoring four goals and providing three assists in that time. These performances led to rumours of the Arsenal Academy graduate earning himself an England call-up alongside teammate Patrick Bamford, rumours that never materialised.
Whilst Ayling’s time in West Yorkshire to date has earned him a degree of legend status, famed for his magical volley versus Huddersfield in 2020, or the aptly named “Ayling Flop”, recent times have been tougher for the once first-choice right-back. Daniel Farke has given his vice-captain only eight starts in the league this season, and none since early October, as he has fallen down the pecking order behind 17-year-old midfielder Archie Gray and Tottenham Hotspur loanee Djed Spence.
Middlesbrough are interested in signing Leeds defender Luke Ayling 🔴👇 pic.twitter.com/iewkAEoKXY
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) January 3, 2024
As reported by Sky Sports News, Middlesbrough are interested in signing the 32-year-old who has just six months left on his current deal at Elland Road, although he is still on £19k-per-week. The right-back position at Middlesbrough is currently being shared by three players Tommy Smith, Anfernee Dijksteel and 19-year-old centre-back Rav van den Berg.
Smith hasn’t featured for Michael Carrick’s side since October, whilst Dijksteel currently finds himself sidelined by an injury he picked up early into the second half at Huddersfield Town. Bringing in another player in this position would allow youngster Van den Berg to continue to play in his natural position in the centre of the pitch more often.
Boro host two Premier League sides in cup games next, Aston Villa in the FA Cup and Chelsea in the first leg of the EFL Cup semi-final. Before returning to the league with Millwall away on the 13th of January as they look to rejoin the chase for play-off football.
This is a deal that would make sense for all parties, Leeds could free up their wage bill for their third choice right back, Boro would get a quality player in the right-back position and Ayling could get more game time whilst likely keeping his family still settled in Yorkshire.
It would be a shame from a Leeds perspective to lose a great servant to the club that reminds everyone of an iconic period under Bielsa. However, it is perhaps time to say goodbye to the old days of El Loco and move on to the new faces at the club.