A samba band and 5,000 fans turned out at Middlesbrough’s Riverside Stadium on this day in 1995 to welcome new signing Juninho, the Brazilian player of the year.
The 22-year-old midfielder’s arrival from Sao Paulo in a £4.75million deal generated plenty of excitement among the Boro faithful, and he continued to thrill them thereafter.
Marking his debut by setting up an early Jan Aage Fjortoft goal in a 1-1 draw with Leeds at the Riverside was a taste of things to come.
The ‘Little Fella’ ended up scoring 14 goals and providing 11 assists in 56 Premier League appearances during what proved to be the first of three spells with the Teesside outfit.
That included 12 goals and eight assists in 1996-97, during which he also helped the club reach the FA Cup and League Cup finals.
Boro were beaten in both and also relegated, having been docked three points that would have kept them up, and Juninho – runner-up to Gianfranco Zola in the FWA player of the year award – left for Atletico Madrid in the summer of 1997, citing his ambition to make Brazil’s 1998 World Cup squad.
He subsequently returned on loan during the 1999-2000 season, in which he scored four times in 28 top-flight appearances.
And Juninho then made a permanent switch back to Boro in 2002, having just lifted the World Cup. This third stint lasted two years and saw him play a key role in the club securing the first piece of major silverware in their history, the 2003-04 League Cup.
In total he made 129 league appearances for them, scoring 29 goals.
The man many would argue is Middlesbrough’s greatest player returned again in 2010 for a testimonial at the Riverside, against PSV Eindhoven.
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