By Alex Stevens

Celtic have been given a boost in their pursuit of prolific Middlesbrough striker Jordan Rhodes, according to a report.

The Mail claimed earlier this month that the Scottish giants are among the clubs who have expressed an interest in signing the Scottish goal machine.

It is now said by the Mail that Boro are willing to offload Rhodes in the January transfer window as they step up the process of finding a replacement for the forward.

Manager Aitor Karanka has reportedly told the 26-year-old Scot he can find a new club next month.

The Premier League outfit are showing an interest in Villa striker Rudy Gestede, who has found his chances limited under new manager Steve Bruce.

Villa’s first choice front man is £15million summer signing Jonathan Kodjia, leaving Gestede kicking his heels at Villa Park.

Boro are weighing up the Benin international “as a cut-price alternative” to Rhodes, who is also attracting interest from Villa, Hull, Burnley, Sheffield Wednesday, Norwich, Brighton and Derby.

The Premier League outfit are reportedly keen to recoup the £9million they spent on Rhodes, when he joined from Blackburn in January.

Rhodes has been prolific in the lower leagues, scoring 84 goals in 169 games for Blackburn and 86 goals in 147 matches for Huddersfield.

The 13-time Scotland international also scored six goals in 18 appearances during Boro’s promotion campaign last season but has been just a bit-part player since their Premier League return and has never scored in the top flight.

Karanka prefers Alvaro Negredo to spearhead the attack and the Spaniard has recently been in fine form, scoring five goals and supplying three assists in 16 league matches this season.

Boro are struggling in the Premier League but Celtic are running away with the Scottish Premiership title.

Brendan Rodgers’ side have won 15 of their 16 league matches this season to open up an 11-point gap over second-placed Rangers with a game in hand.

Football Insider verdict:

Rhodes is not a proven Premier League operator but his record in the lower leagues speaks extremely eloquently. The Scotland international would be a brilliant signing for Celtic, where he could expect regular first-team football and plenty of opportunities to demonstrate the eye for goal that has made him one of the best strikers outside of the English top flight in recent seasons. With doubts over the medium term future of Mousa Dembele, Celtic need forward reinforcements to continue their domination of Scottish football. Rhodes is a notch above countryman Leigh Griffiths, who has slipped down the pecking order following Dembele’s arrival. Rodgers should push to get the deal done.

In other Celtic transfer news, the club are set for a major defender windfall.