Boro to sign £6m African

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The Independent Football

Steve McClaren, the Middlesbrough manager, is preparing to sign a player who has been likened to Eric Cantona, the Ghanaian Dereck Owusu Boateng, in an ambitious £6m deal. The Panathinaikos striker is due to join Boro after talks between the clubs and his agent moved on at the weekend.

McClaren has been pursuing attacking talent for weeks and Boateng is expected to agree to the move after Boro lost out twice recently in high-profile transfers. Manchester United pipped the Riversiders to sign Diego Forlan, while Dwight Yorke rejected a move from Old Trafford over personal terms.

However, Boateng's transfer is expected to proceed without a hitch. The 18-year-old came to McClaren's attention when he starred for Panathinaikos against United in the Champions' League last season.

Boateng then went on to become Ghana's best player in the World Youth Championships in Argentina last summer, sparking huge interest in Italy and Spain. Most clubs have backed away because of the asking price until now, but McClaren has been given the go-ahead.

Likened to Cantona because of his power and ability to play up front or off the main striker, Boateng is considered one of the best teenagers in the world. He is due to fly to Teesside for personal talks and a medical this week and should receive a work permit, because he has been a senior international for more than a year.

McClaren has been told he has money to spend by the club's chairman, Steve Gibson, who is aware that he must provide funds or McClaren may be tempted back to Old Trafford. Signing Boateng will also be a major investment since the player's £6m value is expected to increase significantly. Boro will ensure the African is tied into a long-term contract.

* Bradford City's First Division match with Birmingham City was postponed yesterday because of a waterlogged pitch at Valley Parade.