In October 1995, newly promoted Premier League club Middlesbrough were able to pull off one of the most interesting transfers in the club’s history in signing 22-year-old Juninho from São Paulo for £4.95m.
The young Brazilian had already represented the Seleção, and had had an extremely successful spell for São Paulo, winning the Copa Libertadores and the Intercontinental Cup. The midfielder had attracted interest from many European clubs, making the transfer to The Boro all the stranger, but he went on to become a club legend on Teeside.
How did the transfer shake Middlesbrough?
Not only had the Middlesbrough never had a player like Juninho before, but the Premier League hadn’t. The midfielder brought a style of football that had not been seen in the northeast, and the fans grew to adore him. After only just being promoted, Juninho boosted the clubs status to one of a top contender.
At just 5ft 5, ‘The Little Fella’ wowed spectators with exquisite dribbling and an eye for a goal. He had three spells with the Boro, moving to Atlético Madrid in 1997, before returning to the Riverside Stadium in 1999 again. He spent three seasons in Brazil, before returning to Middlesbrough in 2002 for his final two seasons.
His career at Middlesbrough culminated in winning the League Cup against Bolton, leaving a legacy very few players have beaten. He is widely considered as Middlesbrough’s greatest ever player, and many fans and pundits are shocked that he never won Player of the Year during his spells in England.
‘The Little Fella’ scored 32 goals in 142 appearances, and it is unlikely that fans will ever see a player of his calibre gracing Teeside again.
How did the transfer shake the world?
Juninho made a move to England that barely any Brazilians had made before, and set a precedent for future players. The little maestro proved that Brazilians can be a success in a league that seemed to clash with the Brazilian style and culture of football, with many future players following his example. Had Juninho never paved the way, the likes of Philippe Coutinho or Willian may never have braved the move.
He also became the smallest player in Premier League history at the time, proving that diminutive players can still have success in what was quite a tough and physically demanding league. He made his own history at Middlesbrough, but also changed Premier League history.