Middlesbrough form official link with Juninho's Ituano
Championship side Middlesbrough have formed an official link with São Paulo-based Ituano, where Teesside legend Juninho is president.
The Brazilian club’s sporting director Tiago Cruz has already spent time with Middlesbrough, and now an agreement is officially in place.
Boro boss Tony Mowbray said: "Because of the connection with Juninho it's something we think could be a benefit, as we don't have an existing presence in South America and have no scouts there at all.
"If there are players there with European passports who meet our budget and criteria, why would we not utilise that connection with Juninho's club? Hopefully it will bear fruit over the years."
As part of the deal, Boro have taken midfielders Marcos Beltrame Rhoden and Rafael Peireira, both 19, on-loan until the end of the season.
The young Brazilians, who both have European passports, flew into the North-East late last week and watched Saturday’s 3-2 defeat to Barnsley from the Riverside directors’ box.
Mowbray has confirmed that the pair will initially train with Jamie Clapham’s development squad but hinted he may promote them to the first team set up if they impress.
"Who knows?" he said. "I'm not going to prejudge them. If they're fantastic for the U21s, well Curtis Main played for the U21s this week and he played for the first team on Saturday. So let's wait and see.
"They won't train with the first team at the moment but it depends on their quality. I'm not closing the door on anyone - as we've seen with Bryn Morris, Jordan Jones, if they do well, we'll bring them in."
Mowbray, whose side currently occupy the league’s final play-off position, stressed that nobody should expect too much from the link-up in the near future.
The 49-year-old added: "Juninho's football club aren't going to give us the next Neymar - if they had the next Neymar, he'd be costing someone 20, 30 or 40 million," he said.
"They're not going to let two young players come to us if they were going to help them win their league or win some games.
"They are a couple of young players who are not impacting on their team who they think have the right personality to come here and develop.
"The chairman's talked to them about where we are financially and if they did have the next Neymar, I'm pretty sure he would be going to Manchester United."
Juninho sent senior players Carlos Rodrigo Correa and Eduardo Favretto for trials last summer and will now act as Middlesbrough's presence in South America.
The 39-year-old is considered one of Boro’s finest ever players, after reaching two major finals and winning the 2004 Carling Cup during three different spells on Teesside.