Middlesbrough have played down talk they could sell defender David Wheater following relegation from the Premier League.
The powerful 22-year-old stopper has been linked with a move to Aston Villa as Martin O'Neill seeks defensive reinforcements following Martin Laursen's retirement.
It had been thought Villa could be ready to test Boro's resolve with an £8million bid for the England Under 21 international, however, the North East outfit are not looking to sell.
Boro's chief executive Keith Lamb is delighted Wheater recently expressed his desire to help the team win promotion from the Championship and says the club are looking to build their defence around him.
Cornerstone"We are looking forward to David becoming the cornerstone of our defence in future years," Lamb told the Evening Gazette.
"We are absolutely delighted that David has come out publicly and said that he is staying at Middlesbrough.
"We have a fight on our hands and David is up for the fight."