Boro’s January Transfer Window Nightmares (1) – Afonso Alves

Boro are well positioned to mount a bid for automatic promotion. They are by a considerable margin the best defensive team in the Championship and, having completed two recent home victories, they have now  taken 47 points from the last 23 games.

There’s also the small matter of dumping  the reigning Premier League champions out of the FA Cup in front of 5,500 ecstatic away fans.

Things are going swimmingly so surely there’s nothing we need to do but keep it going. Yet, there have been calls for Boro to add firepower in this January transfer window.

Some have pointed to blank away days in which Boro have dominated but failed to convert chances. There are also demands that we should sign from a position of strength and build on our achievements so far. Extra cup games will also stretch our current squad. A failure to strengthen up front  may mean us missing out on our best chance of promotion in years.

Those calling for a new  forward seem to have overlooked one small detail. Boro don’t do January strikers, at least not ones that score any goals. We’ve seen an array of forwards of various shapes and sizes come in to banish those typical Boro post-Christmas blues only to fail miserably. More firepower in the January window ? Be careful what you wish for.

Here’s a three-part wander down memory lane to relive  some of our January transfer nightmares. It’s a sorry tale of  the rearends of cows left completely  untouched by stringed instruments.

1. Afonso Alves  –  January 2008

Gareth Southgate’s doing well at the FA isn’t he?  It’s an ideal role for him because he looks good in a blazer and it doesn’t involve him signing  players.

Do you remember the summer transfer window of 2008 when Gareth let go our best ever keeper and the whole of our central midfield and in their place brought in a  French bloke with legs made  of weetabix? Well, that would be a low point in transfer dealings for most managers but  Gareth managed to top that in January 2008 with the acquisition of  Afonso Alves.

Alves cost a cool £12.5 million and had scored a stack of goals for Heerenveen in Holland. Their alumni included Ruud Van Nistelrooy and Klaas Jan Huntelaar so fans were quite naturally cock-a- hoop at the prospect of the Brazilian’s arrival and looked forward to goals galore.

Afonso was  greeted by a  fabulously naff Brazilian themed welcome party at the Riverside. Did any readers attend ?  Have you recovered  yet ? Are you still taking the pills? Please let us know.

A samba band,which amounted to a couple of  students from Stockton banging drums  out of time, mingled with a few kids who’d knicked off St Peter’s School. Alves was suitably touched and he  responded with an impromptu “keepy-uppy”  session. I suppose we should have known the writing was on the wall when he only  managed “one”.

In fairness to Afonso he showed some promise in his first season, the highlight being a brace against Man United. He was expected to kick-on in his second season as he got used to the demands of English football. He didn’t,  he just kicked high, wide and not very handsome.

In that second season Alves was awful, truly appalling. There was a theory doing the rounds, presumably started by Afonso’s agent, that his poor form was as a result of the team not playing to his strengths. That begs a couple of questions:  1. What strengths ?  2. What about the chances he squandered?  Open goals, one on ones, free headers you name it and he missed them. His Brazilian nickname should have been “Spurnio de Chansa”.

Every Boro fan has a favourite Alves blooper – Christ, he had about six in one match against Man City. Mine was against Portsmouth. He was centrally positioned about 12 yards out with the goal at his mercy. It was the last minute and the score was 1-1. All he had to do was place the ball  in the corner but, instead,  he panicked, slipped and scuffed the ball which trickled into the hands of a grateful David James. Those 2 lost points may well have kept us up  that season but as always with Alves it was a case of what might have been.

After Boro were relegated Alves decided that life in the Championship was not for him and nobody at the club disagreed. Remarkably, in the summer of 2009,  Boro managed to sell him to Al Sadd for a fee- yes, actual money changed hands. The sum was undisclosed but  miles more than he was worth.

In fact, amazingly, Boro almost sold Alves earlier that summer when Keith Lamb lined up a deal with a top European club. The deal was done and a flight arranged to fly Afonso out for a medical but, of course, he missed it !

The remainder of Alves’ career was played out virtually goal free and in almost complete obscurity in the Middle East. He did pick up one award though, in 2014 he was voted the worst South American in Premier League History.

Afonso Alves – you were worse than Kleberson – take a bow son!


11 thoughts on “Boro’s January Transfer Window Nightmares (1) – Afonso Alves”

  1. Well written Anthony! A few points…

    . Southgate’s pal at The Sunday Times, David Walsh, blamed the loss of key players on Gibson getting in over his head (“Perhaps damagingly for (Southgate), he refused to be part of the fantasy that caused the club to run up huge debt”, or something like that). He went one step further in pinning the Alves signing solely on Gibbo and Lamb. In fairness, we were racking up almost £80 million in debt and the bank crisis of 2008 meant Gibbo had to cut back a bit, but one cannot excuse Southgate. (Although given the way Boro had shamelessly admitted to courting Strachan behind Gate’s back, you can’t blame Walsh for not being fair.)

    . I have my unfavourite Alves bloopers too… the shot that bounced off the underside of the bar and away against Mogga’s WBA, and his open goal miss in the same match. Him and Mido just did not click.

    . Yes, the samba party that welcomed Alves was an embarrassment! Comparing it to Juninho’s arrival would be like comparing Ireland’s USA 94 homecoming to the Italia 90 homecoming… a failed attempt of the former to recapture the magic of the latter.

    1. Thanks Si, you’re right about the change in tack from the club post Eindhoven. Whoever came in would have had a difficult job in cutting wages and maintaining performance levels. Southgate wasn’t up to it but why should he have been? He was a total novice.

      No excuses for signing Alves mind you – he was a big fee plus huge wages. Rumours persist that Southgate didn’t want him but Gibbo and Lamb insisted. We’ll probably never know the true story.

  2. Alves reminded me of a goal keeping coach. He specialised in the type of shot designed to help the goalkeeper warm up without over stretching or embarrassing the custodian.

  3. Anthony,

    Good to see you back in sparkling form, just like Boro.
    Harsh but exceptionally fair, Southgate certainly ‘improved that Boro team worse’. Then Mr Lamb went on to work at the FA, it’s a funny game, after courting or ‘going out’ with Strachan. Dark days. Sometimes it’s good being an exile you don’t get to see them in the flesh, well except at Ipswich.

    Alves made a good living from it all, it just doesn’t seem fair to a supporter.

    Best wishes,


  4. Just come across this again and there is something not factored in to the equation. I believe we bought him with staged payments in euros before the pound collapsed against the euro in the credit crunch.

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