Football: Boro monitor Villa's talks with Juninho

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The Independent Online
MIDDLESBROUGH HAVE confirmed that they are maintaining a watching brief amid fresh speculation that Juninho is set to return to England.

Aston Villa are in talks with Atletico Madrid for the Brazilian midfielder, who is out of favour at his club, but Boro had a first-option clause included in Juninho's contract when he left Teesside in the summer of 1997. They admitted yesterday that they have been in touch with the Madrid club to ensure that their interests are protected.

A delegation from Atletico flew to Birmingham on Thursday to start negotiations with the Villa chairman, Doug Ellis, and are believed to want more than pounds 10m for the midfielder.

John Gregory, the Villa manager, said he had been involved in the initial talks which might have "advanced the situation a little further".

He added: "I had a busy day yesterday and can confirm that I met some people. But there is nothing else I can add at the moment. I am trying to sidestep the issue while we prepare for our FA Cup tie with Fulham."

Middlesbrough denied they had made legal moves to block any transfer to Villa, but said they had simply exercised their rights under the legally- binding contract. Juninho was at Boro for 18 months after his pounds 4.75m move from Sao Paulo in November 1995, and helped his side to the Coca-Cola and FA Cup finals in 1997, and left after Boro were relegated from the Premiership.

The Villa striker Dion Dublin is to see a specialist to determine whether he will need surgery following growing concern over the extent of his groin problem.

Dublin has been handicapped with the injury for the past month - he was rested for the third-round tie against Hull - and is out of today's FA Cup fourth-round tie with Fulham.

"Something will need to be done because we have rested him and looked after him for the last three weeks, but he is still having problems," Gregory said. "He will see a specialist over the weekend to find out whether or not he needs rest or whether he needs surgery. He might well need something like that."

Manchester United could make a move for goalkeeper Carlos Roa after the Argentina international reached deadlock in contract talks with Real Mallorca. United are believed to be interested in Roa as a replacement for Peter Schmeichel, who has confirmed he will be quitting the club in the summer after eight seasons at Old Trafford.

The Rangers striker Marco Negri has joined Vicenza on loan until the end of the season with a view to a pounds 2.5m transfer in the summer.

Jurgen Klinsmann has quit his role as an ambassador for Germany's bid to host the 2006 World Cup after the German federation refused him a farewell international.