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Juninho retains Premier League affection

Juninho became a cult hero in three spells with Middlesbrough, who he initially joined in 1995 from Sao Paulo.

Now retired, the 40-year-old has fond memories of his time in England and would love to see more Brazilians follow in his footsteps.

"I think the English Premier League was already the best competition in the world when I arrived in the country. The first Brazilian playing there was Mirandinha (at Newcastle United), then it was me," Juninho told Perform.

"So English teams' interest in Brazilian players and the interest of Brazilians in English football increased a lot.

"The Premier League is better known here (now) in Brazil, and for me it is the best competition in the world.

"The players are attracted to its organisation, and its competitiveness. So if the market was more open for players with a South American passport we would see many more Brazilians in the Premier League."

Juninho also believes players making the switch from Brazil to England would find adapting much easier than he did upon first arriving in Middlesbrough 18 years ago.

"Now the quality of the pitches in Brazil is getting better. But, back then, the quality of the English pitches was so much higher. So it was a radical change for me," he explained.

"I had a hard time adapting. I arrived on the winter time. I was coming from a tropical country to a place where eight or nine months are cloudy most of the time.

"But all the positive aspects I just mentioned compensated for the differences."