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JUNINHO VIDEO SPECIAL: As the Middlesbrough legend retires - Sportsmail relive his finest moments

10 Apr 2010 02:12:35

JUNINHO VIDEO SPECIAL: As the Middlesbrough legend retires - Sportsmail relive his finest moments

Middlesbrough legend Juninho has calledtime on his career at the age of 37 after helping his local Brazilian clubItuano fight off relegation. Havingstarted at the club in Sao Paulo as a teenager back in 1989, Juninho's career has comefull circle, and along the way included spells at Atletico Madrid and Celtic Sportsmail looks back on some of the pint-sized Brazil midfielder's greatest moments. Teesside terror: Juninho celebrates winning the League Cup (left) in 2004 during his third and final spell with Middlesbrough Winningthe Copa Libertadores with Sao PauloAfterjoining Brazilian giants Sao Paulo,Juninho went on to win the South American equivalent of the Champions League - the Copa Libertadores - in 1993, before winning the now defunct IntercontinentalCup against European champions AC Milan. It made him a hot property around the world, so it was a majorcoup for Premier League new boys to sign him up in a £4.75million deal in 1995. Middlesbrough - Part oneDespitebeing 5ft 6in, Juninho, by now a Brazil international, took to England like a duck to water. With his silky skills enough to take anyone on and a keen eye for goal he soon became a favourite with the Boro fanswho dubbed him 'The Little Fella'. Inhis second season, Juninho played a pivotal roll in guiding Boroto both the League and FA Cup final in 1997. But having lost both, Borowere then relegated on the last day of the season. Despite this setback, he had noregrets on the move. 'It was very challenging when I left Sao Paulo because I went to a team considered small inEurope (Middlesbrough). But I can't say that Iregretted it.,' he told Globoesporte as he reminisced about his career this week. Winning the World Cup2002 and Middlesbrough - Part twoAfterjoining Atletico Madridfor £12m following Boro's relegation, Juninho's career stuttered. Injury forced him to miss the 1998 World Cup, even though he felt he had recovered. Aftera successful loan period back at Middlesbrough for the 1999-2000 seasonand after success back at home with Vasco da Gama in 2000 and 2001, Juninho forcedhis way back into the Brazil squad for the 2002 World Cup. He played five games in Japan and Koreaon Brazil's way to winning the tournament, making up for the devastation atmissing out on the squad four years earlier. 'Iwas in my best time,' he said. 'I think they could have called me up (for the 1998 World Cup),because I still had a month of preparation and I felt good. 'Ididn't understand being cut (from the squad) and I was hurt. But then came theconsecration, when I became world champion in 2002. That's life.' Middlesbrough- Part threeAfterpaying half the price they sold him for, Steve McLaren brought Juninho back forhis third spell at Middlesbroughin 2002. Onceagain he would prove to be a key player and he was again part of the team thatgot to the League Cup final in 2004, including scoring at Highbury againstArsenal in the first leg of the semi-final. And this time he tasted successas Boro claimed a 2-1 victory against Bolton. Hehad his uses in the League as well, scoring two goals in four minutes againstManchester United in 2004 helped his side to a famous 3-2 victory at OldTrafford. Howeverat the end of that season Steve McClaren decided to dispense of Juninho, who thenmoved to Celtic, much to his regret. 'Ithink that the only situation that could have been avoided was my departurefrom Middlesbrough in 2004,' he said. 'Wehad the chance to play in the UEFA Cup, but the coach said Iwasn't in his plans and I ended up moving to Celtic. 'Ihave nothing against the Scottish team, but I think most people would prefer toplay in England. 'Thecoach ended up leading the Englandteam. I regret having left.' (Juninho scores the third goal of the match in this video from his final match) Returninghome to keep Ituano upAfterjust one season at Celtic followed by three years in Braziland two in Australia,Juninho returned to the club where it all started - in the unorthodoxrole of player-president in 2009. This week, In his swansong for the club, Juninho scored the firstas Ituano won 3-0 in the last game of the Paulista (Sao Paulo State Championship). The result ensured they avoided relegation from the regional top division, which includesRobinho's Santos and Ronaldo's Corinthians. 'I'mvery happy,' said an emotional Juninho after the match. 'It's like winning a title. 'There was great responsibility inhelping Ituano. I had this opportunity to continue playing football and hadhoped for a better position in the league, but at least we weren't relegated.' Juninhois now the full time president for the club which he hopes will transform theirfortunes. 'Ihave a contract with Ituano for five years, renewable for another five. I wantto structure the club. 'Ituanodon't have a training centre and it is like the time when I started my career.Now, my goal is to change that.'  NORTHERN EXPOSURE: Sunny outlook for Newcastle as Chris Hughton blows away the dark cloudsPlymouth 0 Middlesbrough 2: Loan star McManus punishes ArgyleClick here for all the Championship standings, results, fixtures and statsMIDDLESBROUGH FC


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