Boro set to sign Portuguese midfielder following McDonald's departure (From Darlington and Stockton Times)
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Boro set to sign Portuguese midfielder following McDonald's departure
MIDDLESBROUGH are set to complete the capture of Portuguese midfielder Vitor this week after Scott McDonald's departure freed up some much-needed room on the club's wage bill.
McDonald has agreed the terms of a severance package that will see him leave the Teessiders despite having a year of his contract still to run.
The Australian, who had been the highest-earning player on Boro's books by a considerable distance, is expected to join Millwall following his release, with Boro no longer contributing to his earnings.
His departure means Boro chairman Steve Gibson can make additions to the club's wage bill without infringing the Financial Fair Play regulations that come into force next season, and it is hoped that up to three new players will be arriving this week.
One of those is expected to be Vitor, with the Pacos de Ferreira midfielder already having travelled to Boro's Rockliffe Park training ground for talks last week.
The 29-year-old attacking midfielder, who is represented by Jorge Mendes, the agent involved in last week's takeover speculation, is extremely highly rated in his homeland and helped Pacos finish third in the Portuguese league last season and qualify for the qualifying round of the Champions League.
However, Pacos' finances mean they have to raise funds and trim their own wage bill this summer, and Vitor's departure has reluctantly been sanctioned.
Vitor, who was close to joining Benfica in January, was part of the Pacos squad that played in a pre-season friendly at the weekend, but that is believed to have been his opportunity to say goodbye to his team-mates, and he is expected to travel to England this week to sign for Middlesbrough.
He is likely to be joined by a central defender and a striker, with McDonald's exit having been the catalyst for a marked increase in transfer activity.
“Scott came in and shook some hands the other day, so I think he's of the impression that it's all done,” confirmed Boro boss Tony Mowbray, who watched his side draw 0-0 with Hartlepool on Saturday. “I don't think all the paperwork has been signed yet, but there's a fair chance that Scott will move on. Then we can move on as well with our own recruitment.
“We're edging towards where we want to be, and maybe the (McDonald) deal will help us to achieve some of our targets.
“Our supporters sometimes won't know the internal workings of our football club, but sometimes there has to be an out to create the ins. It doesn't always mean selling for millions to spend millions, sometimes it's about getting a salary out so you can get a salary in. Maybe this helps us a little bit to move forward.”
McDonald's departure has left Boro with just Lukas Jutkiewicz, Marvin Emnes and the injured Curtis Main in their attacking ranks, and the need for a new centre-forward is clear.
The centre-half position is equally undermanned – Jonathan Woodgate, Rhys Williams and the injured Seb Hines are Mowbray's only senior options there – while the lack of a creative midfield presence has been apparent in all three of Boro's pre-season games.
It is hoped that Vitor's arrival will provide a much-needed link between Grant Leadbitter and Dean Whitehead at the base of midfield and Boro's forward players further up the pitch.
“I hope there'll be players arriving,” said Mowbray. “It's imperative that if we're going to try to sustain a Championship challenge this year, we need some depth to our squad.
“We know that injuries and suspensions will come around the corner. To replace good players with good players is ultimately what football as a squad game is about.”
Saturday's game made it three clean sheets in a row from Boro's pre-season matches, and while Mowbray's players were unable to maintain their 100 per cent winning record, they still enjoyed a decent work-out.
They would have won at a canter had it not been for some wasteful finishing and the brilliance of Hartlepool goalkeeper Scott Flinders, who saved a second-half penalty from Jutkiewicz and produced a string of fine saves to deny the former Coventry striker as well as Emnes and Mustapha Carayol.
“You'd expect it to be competitive playing against Hartlepool and it was a good game for both clubs,” said Mowbray, “At this stage of pre-season, I can give them a little bit of leeway for missing those chances.”
HARTLEPOOL (4-4-2): Flinders; Austin (Richards 86), Collins, Baldwin, Hartley (Holden 46); Franks, Walton (Walker 46), Sweeney, Compton (Rodney 75); James (Howard 75), Monkhouse (Poole 46).
Sub (not used): Rafferty (gk).
MIDDLESBROUGH (4-2-3-1): Steele (Leutwiler 46); Parnaby, Woodgate (Burgess 61), R Williams, Gibson; Whitehead, Varga; Emnes, Leadbitter, Carayol; Jutkiewicz.
Subs (not used): Bennett, Reach, Smallwood, Ledesma.
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