The Middlesbrough manager Steve McClaren has warned Liverpool to forget trying to sign defenders Franck Queudrue and Chris Riggott. Rafael Benitez is reportedly preparing to move for the 27-year-old Frenchman and his 25-year-old team-mate during the January transfer window.
However, McClaren has told the Merseysiders, who infuriated Boro by their ultimately successful pursuits of both Christian Ziege and Bolo Zenden, that the two men are simply not for sale.
"We are flattered, obviously, that such a big club is interested in two of our younger players," he said. "They are players who are doing very, very well for us and two players who we have got no intention of letting go. They are the future of Middlesbrough Football Club."
McClaren's determination to hang on to Queudrue, who initially joined the Teessiders on loan from Lens in October 2001 before completing a £2.5m move the following summer, and Riggott, a £1.5m signing from Derby in January 2003, is a reflection of his belief that Boro cannot be regarded as a selling club.
Since he arrived at the Riverside Stadium in the summer of 2001, Bryan Robson's successor has invested heavily in the likes of Gareth Southgate, George Boateng, Massimo Maccarone, Mark Viduka and Aiyegbeni Yakubu, while at the same time making use of the loan and free transfer systems to recruit players such as Zenden, Gaizka Mendieta and Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink.
To that end, he has had the full support of chairman Steve Gibson, who he insists is the driving force behind the club's desire to hang on to its better players.
"This is what we want to do," McClaren said. "We want to develop our academy, we want to bring young players through. We do not want to sell them, we want to build for the future.
"We will be talking about that at a later date and the reasons why, but we are building a team here and that is what the chairman has always stressed. I have got to say, in the four years I have been here working with the chairman, he's never once said we need to sell our best players. In fact, he's the opposite.
"When opportunities do arise, he's the one who puts his foot down and says 'No, we shouldn't sell our best players', so we get great backing from the chairman in that respect. We can build the club with the younger players and the likes of Riggott and Queudrue, who we have brought to this football club as younger players for the future. It's great that we've got the backing to hold on to them."
Hasselbaink, 33, this week indicated he would be happy to see out the rest of his career at the Riverside with his current two-year contract due to expire at the end of the season.
McClaren, who will send his side out against Fulham in the Premiership tomorrow, revealed that that issue would be addressed in the new year, but was not surprised at the Dutchman's comments.
"He was top scorer last season and he's still got such hunger and motivation to succeed, to win football matches and to score goals.
"At the present moment, he's doing a great job for us. He's in the last year of his contract, but we will come to those negotiations in March, April and May."
McClaren has hinted he will finally put pen to paper on his own new deal next week after months of speculation over why he has not done so already.
"We will maybe have some news on that next week," he said.Reuse content