Football: Boro move for Juninho

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MIDDLESBROUGH ARE holding talks with the Spanish side Atletico Madrid over the return of the midfielder Juninho.

A deal is not imminent, though, as Middlesbrough would prefer a loan deal with a view to a permanent transfer. Boro's manager Bryan Robson wants to check the fitness of the Brazilian, who has not recaptured the form that made him a hero during his two years at the Riverside.

Robson, who sold Juninho to Atletico for pounds 12m two years ago, said: "We have given way on certain things and have not on other things. That's as far as it has gone."

The Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has raised his bid for Venezia's goalkeeper Massimo Taibi to pounds 4m in an attempt to beat the European deadline. Ferguson had an offer of around pounds 2.5m rejected, but his interest has intensified as next Tuesday's Champions' League transfer deadline approaches.

United have also learned that the 29-year-old wants to join them and is pleading with his club to let him go. However, Venezia are a wealthy outfit and are looking for pounds 7m. The club president has said that United's bid is "flattering but does not interest the club".

Ferguson will turn to either Wimbledon's Neil Sullivan or Ipswich's Richard Wright if his bid for Taibi fails over the weekend. The United manager sent a scout to watch Sullivan in action in midweek against Everton when Wimbledon lost 4-0. Even so, United are willing to pay around pounds 3m for him, but his club are asking for more. Mark Bosnich's form and fitness is a worry inside Old Trafford. Ferguson turned to him as a last resort when he joined on a free transfer and now has the backing necessary to buy a long-term goalkeeper.

Steve Harkness completed his return to English football yesterday by signing a three-year deal with Blackburn Rovers. The First Division club will pay Benfica pounds 400,000 for the services of the defender, and the fee could rise to pounds 500,000, depending on appearances.

Wimbledon's Nigerian international Efan Ekoku has signed for Roy Hodgson's Grasshopper Zurich in a deal worth around pounds 500,000.

David Connolly has been called up to the Republic of Ireland squad for next Wednesday's Euro 2000 qualifier against Yugoslavia at Lansdowne Road. The Feyenoord striker, currently on loan to another Rotterdam side, Excelsior, takes over from the injured Keith O'Neill.

Former Newcastle trainee Anthony Parry faces a further charge of misconduct after testing positive for morphine for the second time. The 17-year-old, who is banned from football and undergoing counselling after his positive test in February, tested positive again on 20 August.