By Tom Blackburn
Middlesborough have joined Aston Villa in the battle to sign West Brom defender James Chester, according to a report.
The Mirror reported on Monday that Villa had made contact with West Brom to confirm their interest in the Euro 2016 star.
The Express and Star now claim that Chester is a target of recently promoted Premier League side Middlesborough.
Versatile Chester, 27, impressed in France for Wales with a series of fine displays as they reached the last four of the competition.
Roberto Di Matteo’s side got off to poor start in the Championship last weekend with a 1-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday, and the manager is keen to bolster his defensive options.
Di Matteo has already lost centre-back Ciaran Clark to Newcastle in this transfer window, and the Telegraph claim he has told Joleon Lescott that he can leave Villa this summer on a free a year before his contract expires.
Chester encountered a difficult first season at West Brom following his £8million transfer from Hull, making just 19 appearances in all competitions and falling behind defender Gareth McAuley and Jonas Olsson in the pecking order.
He would provide some valuable Championship experience to Villa as several of the squad have never played in England’s competitive second-tier.
Villa pairing Tommy Elphick and Nathan Baker started at the heart of defence, but Chester could be expected to slot straight into the starting 11 if he switches Midlands clubs.
The centre-back was a regular player with his former club Hull and he made 171 appearances in all competitions for them.
Villa are desperate to seal an immediate return to the Premier League and the signing of Chester could provide some real quality to the side, although they could be held to ransom with the player still contracted until 2019 at West Brom.
In other Aston Villa transfer news, their Aston Villa academy graduate has been handed an instant Premier League return.