Leeds United transfer news: Middlesbrough confirm signing of Elland Road favourite as they look to muscle in on Championship play-offs

Elland Road favourite Luke Ayling has cut ties with Leeds United by joining Middlesbrough until the end of the season.

The 32-year-old moves on a half-season loan to Teesside, which will take him to the end of his Whites contract.

Having made 268 appearances in seven-and-a-half seasons at Leeds, Ayling is a popular figure on the Elland Road terraces, and manager Daniel Farke has spoken warmly about his leadership qualities, but the fact remains his FA Cup appearance at Peterborough United was his first senior football since November 3.

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Now Boro will hope the right-back can bring his qualities on and off the field to their attempts to muscle into the Championship play-off picture.

MOVING ON: Luke Ayling has joined MiddlesbroughMOVING ON: Luke Ayling has joined Middlesbrough
MOVING ON: Luke Ayling has joined Middlesbrough

Michael Carrick’s side hold a 1-0 lead going into the second leg of their League Cup semi-final against Chelsea but like Sam Greenwood, who joined on loan in August, Ayling is cup-tied having played for Leeds in the competition.

But forcing their way into the play-offs is still an objective for Boro this season and with injuries biting hard, they are signing reinforcements with that in mind. Striker Finn Aziz has already joined from Aston Villa for £2.5m.

Despite being 12th in the table after 26 games, they are only four points behind sixth place, currently held by their north east rivals Sunderland.

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Summer signing Rav van den Berg has been the regular right-back this season, but his best position is in the centre of defence. Isaiah Jones can also play there, but is on the attacking side of wing-back.

Although right-back is Ayling's natural position, he has played across the back four since joining from Bristol Rovers for just £500,000 in 2016.

Ayling started the season as first-choice right-back for Leeds and, once Liam Cooper picked up an injury, captain.

But Farke signed Djed Spence on loan from Tottenham Hotspur to replace him and, when the Londoner had an injury-blighted start to his Leeds career, central midfielder Archie Gray became the regular choice though.

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For all the nice words Farke has had to say about Ayling's influence on the squad lately, he has still been prepared to let him go, despite also sending Spence back midway through his loan.

Although Farke was very relaxed about the need for a new right-back after Spence's departure, one is surely required now.

Sam Byram is the only specialist at the club but the right-footer has almost exclusively been used on the left in the first half of the season when the fit-again Junior Firpo has largely been absent. Jamie Shackleton, another right-footed central midfielder, has played in both full-back positions.

Ayling was part of the Leeds team which lost out to Derby County in the Championship play-off semi-finals in 2019, and won the title the following year.

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"He is a player with good experience, he's a promotion winner, and he's played at the highest level,” said Boro manager Carrick.

"He's a terrific character as well and we see him as a great fit for what we have here. He's exactly what we're looking for at the club."

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