Dutch row stalls Alves move to Boro

Afonso Alves was in Teesside yesterday to try and complete his £14m deal to join Middlesbrough – but a serious hitch to the transfer has emerged back in the Netherlands.

AZ Alkmaar, the Eredivisie club which thought it had signed Alves from Heerenveen, yesterday requested a "speed trial" with the Dutch Football Association. The hearing is scheduled for 7.30pm next Wednesday with AZ claiming they have a transfer agreement signed by Alves and them – although, perhaps crucially, not by Heerenveen. The deal is for €18m (£13m), with AZ claiming Alves was their player as from 1 January.

The Brazilian striker had agreed to go to AZ Alkmaar but pulled out of the deal once he knew there was still interest in him from the Premier League.

Although the development appears to be a severe blow to Boro's chances of signing Alves, sources close to the 26-year-old remain confident that a deal will be completed. Personal terms have been agreed. Talks have continued throughout this week to secure the deal, which would be a transfer record for Boro.

Nevertheless, buying Alves represents a risk. He has been told he has no future at Heerenveen, who have grown exasperated by his efforts to leave. Alves was the top scorer in the Netherlands last season, having arrived from Malmo where he was also a prolific striker, with 49 goals in 49 appearances, including 34 in the league. So far this season he has scored 11 times and earned his first full international cap in the friendly against England at the end of last season. He now has eight caps.

Boro, who remain interested in other strikers should the Alves deal collapse, also face the prospect of losing winger Stewart Downing, who has attracted interest from Tottenham Hotspur after stalling on signing a new contract. Nevertheless, Boro are prepared to let him go, for the right price, because they have a ready-made replacement in Adam Johnson.

Manager Gareth Southgate, whose side face Liverpool today, insisted yesterday that he wanted Downing to stay: "Stewart has got two-and-a-half years left on his current contract and we are in discussions about a new one. Hopefully that can be resolved because he is a very talented player and we want him to be a part of this club's future."

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