Football: Robson backs Moreno to break down the barriers: Britain's first Bolivian striker awaits all clear to terrorise defences. Guy Hodgson reports

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The Independent Online
IF Jaime Moreno had expected a culture shock when he arrived at Teesside he was not disappointed. Fresh from playing for Bolivia at Soldier Field, Chicago, in the World Cup finals, his first match for Middlesbrough was a friendly at Feethams, Darlington. You would not come down to earth much faster if you hitched a ride in a space shuttle.

In the post-USA scramble for players Moreno is probably one of the longer shots to make good. At 20 he has youth on his side in trying to fathom the British way but he does not have the worldliness or experience of, say, Jurgen Klinsmann.

The biggest barrier is the absence still of a work permit, though having played in 30 internationals in the last three years, he should easily meet Department of Employment rules which require that a foreign player has appeared in 75 per cent of his country's senior games in the previous two years.

'You never know how the first Bolivian player in England will settle down,' Bryan Robson, Middlesbrough's player-manager, said when he paid FC Blooming pounds 250,000 for his services. 'But what I've seen of his ability I'm prepared to take the risk. I'm buying potential.

'I first saw Jaime in video highlights of a Bolivian international game and decided he was worth looking at. He's a good passer, has a good shot and has a great first touch on the ball. He's also got a good football brain and has shown me he is strong-minded in the way he has got on with the rest of the squad despite the obvious language difficulties.'

Certainly Moreno's only appearance in Middlesbrough colours, in the Kevan Smith testimonial last month, gave credence to the theory that the Boro boss might run the risk of facing charges of daylight robbery if he ever strays into Bolivia. Robson said he might have acquired a pounds 1m player but that looked a conservative estimate at Feethams.

The Bolivian scored two goals in a 3-0 victory that night and had two more efforts cleared off the line. He left the field to a standing ovation and was immediately chased by Robson offering a two- year contract. The fee will increase by pounds 125,000 after he has made 50 first-team appearances while FC Blooming will get a percentage of the profits if he is sold on.

A friendly in the sun is a long way from a wet night on a muddy pitch at Oldham but Robson was not alone in wanting to make a calculated flutter on the youngster's potential. 'A Colombian club made an offer for him,' he confirmed, 'and three Spanish clubs expressed an interest but he wants to make a go of it in England.'

Let us hope he has the opportunity.

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