Socceroo Riley McGree would be a “perfect fit” for Middlesbrough if the deal to take him from Charlotte FC to England's north-east is ratified this week.
That’s the conclusion of Socceroos assistant coach Rene Meulensteen amid multiple UK reports suggesting the $7 million move is a mere formality, with the attacking midfielder agreeing personal terms and undergoing a medical at the Riverside on Tuesday.
Meulensteen believes Celtic’s loss - Ange Postecoglou thought he had McGree in the bag until Boro intervened - would be the high-riding Championship club’s gain.
“Riley showed what he’s all about and the abundant qualities he possesses during his loan spell at Birmingham City (30 games and three goals), and the fact they didn’t want to let him go tells you the story,” Meulensteen told FTBL.
“Middlesbrough are a club going places under Chris Wilder (who previously took Sheffield United to the Premier League) and Riley would be a perfect fit.
“He has the quality to unlock defences with his passing range … he also has excellent movement and a tireless work rate.
“If Middlesbrough do land him I’m sure he’ll be an important piece of the puzzle for them in terms of possibly winning promotion to the Premier League through the playoffs.
“Chris Wilder is a go-ahead manager who I have no doubt would bring out the best in Riley, and help his game progress.
“He’s a creative left footer who can also score and is the type of player Middlesbrough need.
“Who knows - Riley could find himself in the Premier League at the end of the season and what a prospect that would be.”
The Teesiders are a point off the top six - adrift of Huddersfield with a game in hand - after five seasons in the second tier following relegation in 2017.
Until a deal is officially ratified, the Hoops still remain theoretically in the hunt - and Meulensteen - Sir Alex Ferguson’s number two at Manchester United for six years - feels Celtic Park would also be an ideal destination for the 23-year-old former A-League star.
“Of course there’s that connection with Ange, who first brought (seven cap) Riley into the Australian set up, and I’m sure Riley would benefit from linking with him again,” he added.
“Celtic are huge in Scotland and there’s always going to be European football and domestic trophies if you go there.
“Under Ange they also play an attacking brand which would suit him down to the ground.
“It’s a nice dilemma for Riley to have - and whichever way it goes it won’t be an easy choice because both clubs have great pluses about them.
“Riley has already shown he can cut it in the Championship, and a lot may depend on where he feels he’ll get the most game time.
“From a national team point of view, it will be great to have him join either club. It’s terrific he has these options in front of him.
“For Australian football it’s important that young players like Riley get opportunities like this.”