Football: Juninho back on loan at Boro

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The Independent Online
JUNINHO BEGINS a second stint at the Riverside today after Middlesbrough signed the diminutive Brazilian midfielder on a short-term contract until the end of the season, subject to a successful application for a work permit.

Juninho left Boro two years ago after the club's relegation to the First Division, but, after falling out of favour with the Spanish side Atletico Madrid, the Teessiders have brought him back. Joining Juninho will be Ibrahim Ba, who yesterday signed until the end of the season from Milan. Ba is a 26-year-old Senegal-born French international forward.

Atletico, who signed the Brazilian for pounds 12m in July 1997, have settled for a loan deal after failing to reach agreement over a transfer fee. The club's president, Jesus Gil, said: "Juninho is a star and he couldn't spend all his time on the bench."

The Aston Villa chairman, Doug Ellis, has warned off Newcastle United from making an approach for the Midlands club's manager, John Gregory. Newcastle are seeking a successor to Ruud Gullit, who resigned on Saturday. Gregory was believed to have been under consideration, but Ellis said: "The press speculation about Newcastle United is just that and no contact has been made by John or that club. In any event, any approach would be rejected immediately. John's future is with Aston Villa."

Gregory and Ellis were reported to have had a disagreement following the 1-0 defeat of Middlesbrough. Gregory was apparently annoyed that the chairman had ignored the club's impressive start to the season and instead complained about home attendances. However, Ellis has denied that there is any rift. "I did speak to John after the game on Saturday, as I usually do, and congratulated him on the result but was not aware that I had said anything contentious," Ellis said.

Gerard Houllier's spending appears to know no bounds and, having already spent around pounds 25m this season, the Liverpool manager's next target is Michael Sylvestre, a left-back who plays for Italy's Internazionale.

Sylvestre, who can also play at centre-half, is unsure of his future with Inter after the arrival of the coach Marcello Lippi, who has signed a replacement for him.

Leading European coaches have suggested arranging two internationals in a week to reduce the disruption to clubs caused by players being called away for spread-out fixtures.

The idea was one of many discussed by 10 of Europe's leading coaches at their inaugural forum with European football's governing body, Uefa, yesterday. Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of Manchester United, led a discussion about the increasingly congested football calendar and a wide range of other issues affecting leading clubs.

One idea was to schedule internationals on Wednesday or Thursday and then again on Saturday or Sunday, so reducing the time a player would be lost to his club. Other points of discussion included the introduction of additional officials, player development and yellow cards.

Andy Roxburgh, the former Scotland coach and now Uefa's technical director, said there was some interest in adding two more linesmen or goal judges.

"One option discussed was the idea of having linesmen to the side of the goals," he explained. "They would be concerned mainly with the penalty box areas, where often decisions are decisive. They felt the referee in the modern game needs all the help we can give them."

The veteran German defender Thomas Helmer has joined Hertha Berlin on loan from Sunderland.

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