Southgate won't sell players cheaply

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The Independent Football

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate has told English football's big spenders to put up or shut up if they are planning January raids for his players.

The former England defender has grown weary of rumours suggesting some of his stars could be up for grabs during the transfer window.

Chelsea have been linked with a move for Turkey international Tuncay Sanli, while Tottenham may come in for England midfielder Stewart Downing, and Wigan are maintaining a long-held interest in Egypt frontman Mido.

Southgate neither wants to, nor has to, sell any of his better players, but acknowledges he will have to if he wants to raise funds for his own winter spending plans.

He knows the valuations his club places on each of its employees and if an offer is too good to turn down, Boro could be prepared to do business.

However, Southgate is adamant that any potential purchaser will have to fight to prise any key men from his grasp.

Asked if he is preparing a contingency plan in case a substantial offer materialises, Southgate said: "In some respects, yes, but we are not here just for other football clubs to walk over.

"If people think they can just take our players out, then they are wrong.

"We are not here to help other clubs. No-one is going to try to help us.

"People seem to think they can unsettle our players or just waltz in and take them on a whim - well, they are going to find out that's not the case.

"We want as much stability as we can and if people do have an interest in our players, they need to get on with it.

"They need to make their ideas known to us so we can either say, 'Thank you very much, there you go', or 'No, nothing's going to happen', and they can move on with their lives."

Southgate has also warned any club preparing an offer not to bide their time hoping for a bargain buy late in the window.

He said: "I keep hearing rumour of what's going to come, but as yet we have had nothing, so I assume then it is not coming.

"Obviously, the longer time goes on, the less likely you are to want to part with people because you can't get people in to replace them."

That is exactly the situation which transpired during the summer of last year when Boxing Day opponents Everton ended weeks of speculation by tabling an £11.25m offer for striker Ayegbeni Yakubu.

The Nigeria international eventually completed his move to Goodison Park on August 30, leaving Boro no time in which to recruit a replacement, and Southgate is in no mood to find himself in a similar situation once again.

He said: "That's something you want to try to avoid. We are consistent as a club on our stance on that.

"But if people think we are a soft touch and just here to help everybody else, we know it's a cut-throat industry and we will be more than fighting our corner."

Meanwhile, Southgate has defended midfielder Julio Arca over the tackle on Fulham's Andy Johnson which many felt should have earned him a red card, the fate which befell Arsenal's Emmanuel Adebayor against Liverpool yesterday.

He said: "I don't think there's any intent in either of them. But when you look at the pictures and you slow them down, they don't look good, so I can understand people's reaction to that.

"But I know the nature of our player and Julio isn't a malicious type at all. He wouldn't have wanted to cause any harm, that's for certain."