"Wheats could be one of Boro's best, I personally think he could be the heart of our defence for the next five or 10 years," said Cooper.
"People always ask if he is like Tony Mowbray - I always say I liken him more to Gary Pallister.
"But there is a crossover point where he is an out-and-out winner like Mogga was but he is also a very cultured footballer like Pally was.
"So there is a crossover but why not, why can't he be here for 10 years, depending on where his career takes him.
"If Middlesbrough are being successful and his career is progressing, he could be the heart of this defence for 10 years - no problem."