ROMANIAN midfielder Paul Codrea has set his sights on a move to Middlesbrough.

Cash-strapped Italian side Genoa, desperate to ease their debts, are willing to off-load 21-year-old Codrea and Boro were yesterday linked with an interest.

Juventus and Bayer Leverkusen have been charting Codrea's progress, but he appears to be under the impression that he is Boro bound.

"I would love to play in the Premiership,'' he declared. "I am not afraid of the tough nature of the tackling, because I am a fighter.

"It would be wonderful to have the opportunity to play for Middlesbrough, not only because they seem to be a team with good potential, but because I am confident that by joining them I will have a good opportunity to win a first-team place.

"Middlesbrough will be perfect for me to make a good impression in England. I will say yes to a move to Middlesbrough, knowing that they have a lot of quality players like Alen Boksic and Massimo Maccarone, who is young but a very great talent.''

With money tight at the Riverside, any deal involving Codrea would be a loan with a view to a possible permanent move.

But Boro boss Steve McClaren's priority yesterday was trying to push through the loan signings of Derby County duo Malcolm Christie and Chris Riggott.

McClaren wants striker Christie and defender Riggott on a three-month agreement as a precursor to a proposed £3m double deal in the summer. Boro, whose £4m move for Seth Johnson fell through this week because of concerns over the condition of his knee following surgery, say they are close to securing Christie and Riggott.

But Derby's financial director Andrew Mackenzie yesterday told his club's website that they were still in negotiations with Boro.

He said: "We are still talking to Middlesbrough about the two players. As it stands, we are waiting to hear back from Middlesbrough, and the ball is in their court at the moment.''

It was unlucky 13 for Boro on Tuesday when their unbeaten 12-match home record was shattered in a shocking 5-2 defeat by Aston Villa. Boro have slipped into the bottom half of the table and are only 11 points clear of relegation-threatened Sunderland.

And with a daunting Riverside derby against Newcastle looming this Saturday, McClaren stressed: "We have always looked over our shoulders, even in the days of hitting third place. But this was our first defeat at home and we just have to say it was a bad day at the office and lick our wounds."

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