Football: Boro still covet Juninho

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The Independent Online
BRYAN ROBSON, the Middlesbrough manager, has admitted he could be tempted to bring Juninho back to the Riverside Stadium but thinks he would need pounds 20m to do so.

The brilliant Brazilian playmaker/striker, struggling to command a place in Atletico Madrid's first team, has said he would like to return to the Premiership one day and that he still follows Boro's fortunes closely.

Robson said he would be delighted to see the man who set the Riverside Stadium alight during his 18 months on Teesside back in England but he is not planning a move just yet. Robson said: "If there was a possibility of signing Juninho some time then we'd definitely look at it because he's a world-class player, and the fans loved him here.

"But I think it's a long way down the lane for that to happen. A lot of people were trying to say that the so-called superstar players which have been at this club didn't particularly enjoy it, or didn't want to be at the club or that we couldn't hold on to them.

"I don't think Ravanelli, Juninho or Emerson would have left the club if we hadn't been relegated. Anyone who has a spare 15 million to 20 million pounds - that would be very helpful in bringing him back.

"He's a quality player, but it's all hypothetical. You don't know if Atletico Madrid are willing to release him. He was unfortunate to have a bad break of his ankle, which didn't help him, and he missed out on the World Cup, which he was desperate to play in.

Juninho joined Middlesbrough for pounds 4.75million from Sao Paulo in November 1995. But, despite his best efforts, the Teessiders were relegated the following season, and Juninho relocated to Spain in a pounds 12m deal in a vain attempt to pursue his World Cup dream - injury ruled him out of France 98 though he was no certainty to be included in the Brazil squad anyway.

Robson's latest comments about Juninho came on the eve of Boro's Worthington Cup game with Everton at the Riverside tonight.

The former Manchester United and England captain has guided his side to the last two finals of the competition under its previous guise but has left empty-handed both times.

That, though, has not put him off trying to secure the trophy this season.

He said: "We have never won a major competition, and it's still the aim for everybody connected with this club to be the first side to do that. That's why we'll be taking this competition seriously.

"We've enjoyed the cup finals that we've had in the last couple of years at the club. It's a great day for the fans and the players. It's been disappointing that we've lost there and it would be great to go back there again."

Fringe players such as Craig Harrison, Steve Baker, Anthony Ormerod, Andy Campbell and Robbie Stockdale will be included in the squad, although Robson insists he will field a strong team.

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