Juninho denies transfer rumours

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The Independent Online
Juninho yesterday reassured Middlesbrough that he has no plans to leave Teesside, despite being quoted at length in some Italian newspapers that he favoured a future in Milan or Turin.

"I don't know where these stories have come from about me leaving the club," the Brazilian forward said. "I am happy at Middlesbrough and I am pleased with the way things are going. The rumours that I want to leave are not true."

Earlier, Middlesbrough supporters had to rely on an agent's soothing words that Juninho's departure was mere speculation and that Emerson, his fellow-countryman, was not about to quit either.

The Italian press had Juninho pouring scorn on English football and saying that he wanted a move to Serie A only a week after Emerson was also reported to be ready to leave the Premiership.

The situation will remain uncertain until they report back after the Premiership break tomorrow to prepare for Saturday's game at Derby County.

Juninho, signed last season from Sao Paulo for pounds 4.75m, was quoted in Italy as saying: "I believe my best prospects lie with Inter Milan. I could also be a success with AC Milan or Juventus. The real problem with much of English football is its structure. Even the tiniest of clubs in Italy are better organised than those in England."

Hardly endearing stuff for Riversiders, but the agent Gianni Paladini, who represents both players, was dismissive. "It's all speculation, I promise you. They [Juninho and Emerson] are world-class stars and you always get this kind of speculation. Because the trouble with Emerson has occurred, everyone is trying to pick up on how the players Middlesbrough have got are doing. Juninho never spoke to a paper."

However, the pounds 4m Emerson will face his manager, Bryan Robson, when he returns from holiday in Brazil, where the stories about his wanting to leave began. The midfielder cannot play against Derby because he is starting a three-match ban.

George Graham, the Leeds manager, has confirmed that he is interested in signing the Swiss international Ramon Vega, but is "a long way from any deal." The 25-year-old centre-half would cost upwards of pounds 3m from Cagliari. "I'm interested in any quality players that become available, especially defenders. Vega falls into that category," said Graham, who faces competition from Tottenham. Graham has also been linked with Barcelona's Miguel Angel Nadal.

Graham's hopes of reducing the Leeds wage bill by parting with the unsettled Swedish striker, Tomas Brolin, were dashed last night when a proposed loan move to the Italian club Sampdoria fell through, according to reports on Swedish television.

Leeds, who bought Brolin for pounds 4.5m from Parma a year ago, threatened legal action over his refusal to report back at Elland Road when another loan spell ended at FC Zurich.

John Aldridge has retired from international football to concentrate on his job as player-manager of First Division Tranmere Rovers.

Aldridge revealed his decision to the Republic of Ireland manager, Mick McCarthy, after being forced to sit on the substitutes' bench throughout Sunday's goalless World Cup qualifier with Iceland in Dublin. The 38-year- old striker, who won 69 caps begining in 1986, was hoping to score the goal which would have equalled Frank Stapleton's Republic record of 20 goals.

David Hodgson, the former Middlesbrough and Liverpool striker, has returned to manage Third Division Darlington for the second time. Hodgson is back at Feethams almost a year after he walked out on a matter of principle, leaving Jim Platt in charge. Platt was sacked on Sunday, six months after taking Darlington to the play-offs at Wembley. Hodgson is expected to appoint Gary Bannister as his second in command.

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