Southgate still optimistic Alves will sign for Boro

Gareth Southgate, the Middlesbrough manager, yesterday described the possibility of completing the long-running attempt to sign Afonso Alves from Heerenveen before the January window closes as "pretty good". Southgate also said he had received no official bids from Newcastle United or Tottenham regarding Jonathan Woodgate and Stewart Downing.

Boro have yet to reach agreement with Heerenveen over a fee but the Dutch club had previously agreed to sell Alves to AZ Alkmaar for €18m (£13.5m), which would smash Boro's transfer record.

Boro will not go to that level but Southgate is still optimistic. Alves' circumstances changed on Wednesday when a Dutch FA tribunal ruled that AZ's agreement with the player was not binding.

"Over the last 24 hours, he's become available," Southgate said of the Brazilian, who has signalled his intentions with a visit to Teesside to meet Southgate 12 days ago. "In his case with Alkmaar it has been shown there is no binding contract, so he's on the open market. Now we've got to try and come to an agreement, but he's gone the route of coming here, we're getting the right vibe. It's just the fee. The chances are pretty good, but the timescale I couldn't give you.

"I don't know the exact figure they're asking for but I believe the fee agreed with Alkmaar was €18m. But we're fortunate we've got a chairman where, if he really wants to do something, he might find a way of doing it. We've cut our cloth here in terms of revenue and don't want to be spending money over and above what we can deal with. If we did it, it would be because we could do it. But, if we could do it, it would give everything a big lift. A new face through the door would help everybody."

Southgate, though, has given up on the Lyons striker Fred. He said that Fred told Lyons on Wednesday night that he wished to stay.

The Boro manager said he had spoken directly to Downing to discuss the ongoing Tottenham rumour, although that interest could now have cooled. On Woodgate, Southgate was vague – saying the two had not spoken yet about any move.

"We wouldn't let anybody go if we felt we weren't suitably covered in that position or didn't have a potential replacement," he said. Boro currently have five centre-halves. "If anyone leaves, it won't be for financial reasons," the manager added.

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