Middlesbrough sign international defensive duo

August 30, 2006

Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate made a long-awaited transfer breakthrough tonight when he got his hands on defenders Jonathan Woodgate and Robert Huth.

The 35-year-old Southgate was rewarded for his patience when the Real Madrid centre-back and his Chelsea counterpart accepted the challenge of adding stability to the Teessiders' defence.

Southgate has been working all summer in an effort to replace himself - following his retirement as a player - and strengthen his pool of defenders, and in Woodgate and Huth will be confident he has got two of the most accomplished available.

Woodgate will spend the season on loan at the Riverside Stadium with Boro having negotiated an option to buy him in the summer, while Huth has put pen to paper on a five-year deal after making a permanent £6million switch.

Southgate said: 'We have added two international defenders to our squad in one afternoon. That's a significant coup for Middlesbrough and a big boost for everyone at the club.

'Both players feel they have a point to prove - and the great thing is that they want to do that with Middlesbrough. I'm absolutely delighted.'

Former Boro schoolboy Woodgate, 26, returned to Teesside for a medical this morning, 48 hours after meeting Southgate and chairman Steve Gibson to discuss a season-long loan deal.

He will now look to get his career back on track after a nightmare two years.

The former Leeds player, who left his home-town club as a 16-year-old to head for Elland Road, has made just 14 appearances for the Spanish giants because of injury since his £13.4million move from Newcastle two years ago.

He proved himself one of the most cultured defenders in the country during his time at both Leeds and St James' Park, and is desperate to return to that sort of form to justify Real's faith in him.

Newcastle did investigate the possibility of taking him back to Tyneside, but concerns over his fitness ended their interest with Michael Owen, Kieron Dyer and Shola Ameobi all either sidelined for months or giving cause for concern.

The Magpies attempted to hijack Huth's move to the Riverside Stadium at the last minute, but could not persuade the 22-year-old Germany international to head just a few miles further north.

Berlin-born Huth would have joined Boro earlier this summer, but the deal collapsed when he failed a medical because of an ankle injury.

Southgate later admitted he had not given up hope of signing the player with a loan deal mooted, but has now decided to proceed with a permanent move.

Huth may not be available for three or four weeks as he recovers from the ankle problem which sidelined him for much of his country's World Cup finals campaign.

But Woodgate is likely to go straight into the squad for the Premiership trip to Arsenal on September 9.

Chris Riggott established himself as Southgate's most dependable partner last season, but now faces a fight to hang on to his place.

Southgate will hope to complete a trio of new signings before tomorrow's transfer deadline, with Charlton midfielder Jason Euell having also arrived on Teesside for talks today.

Meanwhile, Boro are understood to have rejected an approach from Newcastle for striker Mark Viduka.

The Magpies are desperate to add firepower as well as defensive strength, but have been told to forget about the Australia international.