The signing of Daniel Ayala represents a ‘coup’ for Rovers who have signed one of the division’s best defenders, according to Tony Mowbray.

Ayala has signed a three-year deal at the club having been a free agent since leaving Middlesbrough in June and ends Rovers’ long search for a central defensive signing.

The 29-year-old is only the second permanent in recruit in that area since Mowbray took charge in February 2017, the other being Paul Downing, and Ayala will bring valuable experience, with 274 appearances in English football.

Rovers revisited their interest in Ayala this week, having been close to securing his signature earlier this month, and he represents an important piece of business in the eyes of Mowbray.

He said: “It’s an area for a few years now that we’ve been looking to really strengthen.

“It’s not easy to find the guy who can come and do the job.

“Daniel has been in teams that have got out of this division twice and he’s a stick-on defender who can puts his head to the ball, puts his body on the line, and I don’t think there are many better in this division.

“I think he’s a coup for this team and we’re looking forward to working with him.

Mowbray is finally looking forward to working with Daniel Ayala, seven years on from their first meeting.

Mowbray was in the final throws of his time with Middlesbrough, and had spoken to Ayala about bringing him to the club. That move did transpire, but only after time was called on Mowbray’s tenure in October 2013.

Ayala was then on the books of Norwich, moving to Boro on loan days after Mowbray’s departure, going on to make over 200 appearances for the club before leaving in June.

“I nearly signed him for Middlesbrough all those years ago when I was there, fortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to work with him. I think he signed for Middlesbrough the day after I left,” Mowbray explained.

“It was interesting to talk to Daniel over the last few weeks because I had done the same all those years ago when I thought I was signing for him.

“Let’s hope we have a long time working together and he performs, does his job, helps us keep clean sheets and the goals against column down.”

Interest from a club in Saudi Arabia looked to have derailed Rovers’ hopes of signing the former Liverpool youngster, but after those talks broke down, they seized their opportunity to land the free agent.

Mowbray had no issues with the time it took to get the deal done, delighted to simply land Ayala who is free and available to play straight away.

“He had some things he needed to resolve, family things, and I’m a family man, and he needed to make sure everything was alright with his family first,” the manager said.

“We gave him the time to do that as he had decisions to make which he’s now done and he’s signed on the dotted line and we’re looking forward to getting him up to speed and getting started.”

Ayala is short of football however, joining Rovers having not trained with a professional club since opting to turn down the option of a short-term deal at Middlesbrough.

He has even spent time training with non-league outfit Nantwich Town in a bid to maintain his fitness, but he hasn’t played any competitive minutes since January because of injury.

That means he’s unlikely to be thrown in for his debut straight away, though Mowbray is relaxed about that scenario given the performances of Derrick Williams in the opening two matches.

Indeed, Rovers exiting the Carabao Cup at Newcastle United on Tuesday will offer Ayala more chance to get up to speed, with the October international break also on the horizon.

“We’ll have to assess him, we’ll have him in training and see,” Mowbray said of Ayala’s readiness to play.

“I don’t think we need to throw him straight in after just a few days.

“We’ve now got a free Tuesday next week, so he’ll have a whole week next week, so hopefully he  will get up to speed pretty quickly. But let’s wait and see.