Middlesbrough officials were in the Netherlands yesterday in an attempt to finalise the £12m transfer of the Brazilian striker Afonso Alves from Heerenveen. Boro hope to make an announcement as early as today and are prepared to finance the deal by selling Stewart Downing with Tottenham Hotspur the most likely suitors.
The Alves deal, if it goes through, and there may be complications over whether he is eligible for a work permit, would smash Boro's transfer record which stands at the £8.15m spent on Massimo Maccarone five years ago. Boro, who agreed terms with Alves' advisers on Monday evening, also face continued competition to sign the striker who had agreed to move to AZ Alkmaar until he was made aware of renewed interest from Premier League clubs. Boro will hope that Alves's impact is somewhat greater than Maccarone's even if, despite a prolific scoring record in the Eredivisie, his purchase still represents something of a risk.
Signing the 26-year-old will also heighten the chances of Downing, who has stalled on a new contract for the past year, being sold in the transfer window.
Boro are prepared to let Downing go because they have a ready-made replacement in Adam Johnson who excelled during a recent loan spell at Watford and has, in the past, also been the subject of a Spurs bid.
Spurs' head coach Juande Ramos is planning a clear-out. Jermain Defoe has already been told he can leave, with Aston Villa leading the chase to sign him.
As well as a striker Villa have made signing a right-back a priority and, after being rebuffed by Arsenal in their attempts to buy Justin Hoyte, they are likely to turn to Spurs' Pascal Chimbonda, who has become unsettled by the club's attempts to sign Rangers' Alan Hutton as well as Chris Gunter, who has joined from Cardiff City.
Elsewhere, Portsmouth have taken the South Korea striker Cho Jae-Jin on trial with a view to signing the free agent recently rejected by Newcastle. The 26-year-old, who has scored eight goals for his country in 29 matches, has turned down a new contract at his J-League club Shimizu S-Pulse after scoring 34 goals in 79 appearances. Newcastle pulled out of a move and the player has also been linked with Fulham, West Ham, Ajax and Utrecht. Now he will aim to convince manager Harry Redknapp he is worthy of a permanent move to Portsmouth.Reuse content