BRAZILIAN football hero Juninho was last night poised for a return to his beloved Middlesbrough after the club confirmed it was on the verge of a transfer coup.

The 29-year-old looks to be on his way back for a third spell at the Riverside - only days after helping Brazil win the World Cup in Japan.

Middlesbrough have agreed an undisclosed fee with Atletico Madrid for the diminutive South American and hope to tie up personal terms in the coming days.

Juninho became a cult figure when he signed for Middlesbrough in a £4.5m move from Sao Paolo in November 1995 - bringing a taste of Rio to Teesside and winning over fans with his samba skills.

Boro manager Steve McLaren, back in the UK after his stint with the England squad in the World Cup, has pulled off a transfer double with the news that Italian under-21 striker Massimo Maccarone has finally completed his on-off £8.1m switch to the Riverside.

It is hoped the pair can form a formidable partnership for Boro, a proposition which has whetted the appetites of fans, following several disappointing seasons for the under-achieving club.

Mr McLaren said: "Ever since we came here I've known how much he's adored by the Boro fans. We've followed his progress in Brazil. We decided he would be a tremendous asset to the club.

"Our chief executive, Keith Lamb, went to Spain on Tuesday to discuss a fee, which has been agreed, and all we need to do now is speak to the player to reach an agreement to bring him back to Boro. We've had positive vibes from all parties, and now it's up to the player."

And with the player admitting during the World Cup that he would relish a return to the Premiership, hopes are high that he will soon be jetting into Teesside once more.

Juninho first arrived in this country as a little-known player, but in his native Brazil he had been touted to inherit Pele's famous No 10 shirt.

In his first full season he scored 15 goals and had a hand in another 38, but was left in tears when Boro were relegated on the final day of the season. He soon left for Spain in a £12m deal.

He returned to the club on loan in September 1999, but failed to capture his former spectacular form, and returned to Madrid after former manager Bryan Robson declined the chance to sign him permanently.