MIDDLESBROUGH yesterday completed the pounds 4.75m signing of the Brazilian midfield player Juninho from Sao Paulo. The deal takes Bryan Robson's spending for the newly promoted Premiership club past the pounds 10m mark for the season.
Brazil's current Footballer of the Year caught the eye of the the Middlesbrough manager, who is also an England coach, when he scored for Brazil during their 3-1 Umbro Trophy win over the national side at Wembley in June. "It has taken a long time to clinch the deal, but it has been well worthwhile,'' Robson said yesterday. ''It's a big step for Juninho, but I'm confident he'll be a big success over here."
Keith Lamb, Middlesbrough's chief executive, who accompanied Robson on a trip to South America, said: "It is a measure of Middlesbrough's ambition that we have signed the most sought-after player in the world.
"We have beaten all the top Premiership clubs and several big European clubs to his signature. The negotiations between the two clubs were long and drawn out, but Juninho always wanted to come to Middlesbrough. The big challenge was persuading Sao Paulo to sell him and I am delighted we have been successful." No date has been set for the 22-year-old's arrival in England and the deal is subject to his receiving a work permit and passing a medical.
Juninho's move is Robson's second major transfer coup of the season following the capture of Nicky Barmby from Tottenham for pounds 5.2m. Middlesbrough also beat off late interest from Arsenal, Internazionale and Bobby Robson's Porto.
Juninho, whose real name is Osvaldo Giroldo Junior, will play a major part in the revival of the Teesside club, who went into liquidation nine years ago but this season moved to the new pounds 16m Riverside Stadium.
Club officials are expecting a big increase in demand for season tickets, of which a .club record 18,000 have already been sold this season. As part of the deal, Middlesbrough are expected to play Juninho Sao Paulo in a friendly in the North-east early next year.
The Football Association yesterday refused to confirm claims that David Hillier, the Arsenal midfield player, was one of 12 players who failed random drugs tests last season. The FA spokesperson, Clare Tomlinson, said: "There is a strict policy of confidentiality over these matters." It has been alleged that Hillier tested positive for cannabis at Christmas last year.
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