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Thursday, January 17, 2008
Boro hope Downing stays, lose Alves

Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate has reiterated his determination to hold on to England winger Stewart Downing.

Reports have suggested that Tottenham are prepared to pay 10million for the 23-year-old Teesside-born player, but Southgate insists there have been no bids received in the current transfer window.

Southgate said: 'I was very interested to see Stewart's agent on TV telling us what may or may not happen.

'I don't think it's been very helpful. But that's football. Everybody wants to have their say publicly.

'As far as I am concerned I don't want anything to happen. Stewart is a player I don't want to lose.

'He is a very influential player for us and he is our top scorer.'

Downing's agent Ian Elliott recently revealed that he would like his player's future sorted as soon as possible.

But Southgate added: 'We still haven't received a bid for Downing and I hope it doesn't happen before January 31.

'He is a player I think the world of. I want him to be part of our future. I see him as part of our plans.'

Downing came through the Middlesbrough academy and this is his fourth season as a regular in the first team.

He played alongside Southgate when the manager was the team captain, and they have a friendship as well as a manager-to-player relationship.

Southgate said: 'Downing loves playing football. He enjoys being here. He is one of the first players in on a morning and has a cup of tea in the kit room.

'He has been fantastic in my time here. As a manager, he doesn't cause me any problems whatsoever. He is a huge asset to us. That's why I want to keep him here.'

Downing signed a revised five-year contract with Boro only 18 months ago, but although negotiations started last summer over another improved deal, so far the club's new offer remains unsigned.

Southgate said: 'We have been in negotiations with Stewart and his advisor for a while now.

'Obviously he has an existing contract with us. There is an impasse at the moment on a new deal but nothing that cannot be resolved.'

While Southgate battles to hang on to Downing, he is encountering problems in his bid to sign Heerenveen's Brazilian striker Afonso Alves.

The 26-year-old visited the Riverside Stadium last weekend and shook hands on a deal.

Boro are believed to be ready to pay 10m for the player, but are unable to continue negotiations with Heerenveen while a wrangle continues over which club he is actually contracted to.

Fellow Dutch side AZ Alkmaar have claimed they have a signed contract with Alves which shows he is joining them.

The matter has been investigated by the Dutch FA, which held a two-hour meeting yesterday along with representatives from both clubs.

The Dutch FA have deferred announcing a decision, which leaves Boro in the dark over which club they should be negotiating with - with only two weeks to go to the end of the transfer window.

Southgate said: 'We have known for some time of the situation involving AZ Alkmaar and that it would be problematic.

'We will continue to monitor the situation, but that's why you need to keep your options open and negotiate with different clubs over different targets.

'We have an interest in a few players and we will do whatever we can to strengthen the squad before February 1.'




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