Middlesbrough chief executive Keith Lamb has admitted Stewart Downing's injury could prove to be a bonus for the club.
The 24-year-old England international sustained a foot injury in the 1-1 draw with Aston Villa in the penultimate game of the last campaign and will be sidelined for between four and six months. That could mean prospective buyers may wait until next January to make their move.
"The extent of his injury suggests that we will have to wait." Lamb told the Evening Gazette. "But if Stewart is still here in September, then we will be delighted."
He added: "We don't know how long he will be out, but I believe that he will overcome the injury reasonably quickly.
"It means that we will have him playing for us in the Championship terrorising defences, and that's got to be a good thing for Middlesbrough."
Boro, who rejected a bid of around Â£15million for Downing from Tottenham in January this year, have made no secret of the fact they will sell the midfielder if the right offer comes along following assurances given to him by chairman Steve Gibson at the time.
However, the long period of rehabilitation he faces could yet see him turn out for his home-town club in the Coca-Cola Championship, at least for a few months.
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