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Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 15:54 GMT 16:54 UK
Juninho's taste for Teesside
Juninho in Middlesbrough colours in 2000
The Riverside beckons Juninho once more

Superstitious folk say things tend to happen in threes.

Middlesbrough fans will hope the saying is true following news that Juninho could be returning to the Riverside Stadium after two previous spells at the club.

The diminutive Brazilian, whose silky skills first lit up the Premiership in 1995, is like an adopted son on Teesside.

The region also seems to have an irresistible pull for the World Cup-winning midfielder.


Middlesbrough is very special to me and I enjoyed my life there
Juninho

Juninho arrived at Middlesbrough from Sao Paolo for 4.75m, with manager Bryan Robson declaring: "I believe he can become the greatest player in the world".

The boast seemed exaggerated, but Juninho was simply awesome in his first season in English football, combining sensational ability with an appetite for English football rarely matched by overseas players.

Flair, technique, passion and a huge heart were all in evidence as he played 74 games, scoring 17 goals in his first spell at the club.

Mutual admiration

Juninho helped Boro to two Cup finals in 1997, tasting defeat on each occasion.

Few will forget the image of him sat in tears on the pitch when the club were relegated on the last day of the season.

With ambitions to regain his place in the Brazilian squad, Juninho left to join Atletico Madrid during the close season.

Juninho is consoled by Bryan Robson after Boro were relegated in 1997
Juninho was in tears after Boro's relegation
A broken ankle disrupted his time in Spain, and when, in 1999, the opportunity arose for him to rejoin Boro on loan, all parties jumped at the chance.

Boro fans were delighted to see their idol back but he was not quite the force he had been during his original spell on Teesside.

A 6m deal to permanently sign the Brazilian fell through at the end of the season and he returned to Atletico.

He was loaned out to Brazilian clubs Vasco da Gama and Flamengo and began to regain his form of old, eventually winning back a place in the national side.

The culmination of his rejuvanation came in last month's World Cup finals, when he was instrumental in helping Brazil win the famous trophy for a record fifth time.

And he is now on the verge of renewing his love affair with Middlesbrough. The club have begun talks with the player after agreeing a fee with Atletico.

As the saying goes, "home is where the heart is" and there is no doubt Juninho has a deep affection for the Boro.

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03 Jul 02 | Middlesbrough
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