FORMER Middlesbrough favourite Juninho is up for grabs again - but Boro are likely to be priced out of the market for the £5m-rated Brazilian.

The 28-year-old has returned to Spanish second division side Atletico Madrid after an 18-month loan spell back home at Vasco da Gama came to a premature and bitter end.

Juninho claims he is owed several months' wages by Vasco, and has now been recalled to Spain after the Brazilian club allegedly defaulted on a loan payment. "Atletico can do what they want with him," said Vasco club lawyer Paulo Reis.

"They own him and we are not interested in him any more - we've sent his documents back to Spain already."

Vasco had been keen to make the transfer permanent before their financial problems started to bite - and that would have suited the player, who has regained his prized place in the national squad since playing his football back in his homeland.

Robson pulled off a coup when he signed Juninho from Sao Paulo for £4.75m in October 1995 but almost two years later, with Boro relegated, Juninho joined Atletico in a £12m deal.

But Juninho is looking for a move to a high-profile club when the Spanish transfer window opens later this month knowing that second division football may not be enough to keep him in national coach Luis Felipe Scolari's World Cup plans.

The Brazilian - still a hero at the Riverside for his bewitching skills - would no doubt be interested in a return to the Premiership.

A recent poll among Boro fans voted the diminutive midfielder as the best player every to pull on a Boro shirt ahead of the likes of Graham Souness and Wilf Mannion.

His second spell with Boro two seasons ago ended with Bryan Robson deciding against turning an extended loan deal from Atletico Madrid into a £6m transfer, and earlier this year then head coach Terry Venables admitted he had contacted the Spanish side about the player.

Meanwhile Norwegian striker Morten-Gamst Pedersen is still hoping that his dream move to the Riverside will become a reality despite no bid being made after his trial.

The 20-year-old Tromso starlet insists that boss Steve McClaren is merely waiting to see him in match action before making his move, following a ten day stint on Teesside recently.

"They thought I was good technically and that I was of a high standard," said the Norwegian Under-21 international.

"They said they want to see me in a game, and asked me whether there are any Under-21 games coming up so they can watch me."

Pederson's problem is that his domestic season is over, and the Norwegian FA are still waiting to finalise international friendly dates after the Under 21' failure to qualify for the European Championships.

* Boro's youth team will face Leeds United in the FA Youth Cup fourth round at The Riverside on Tuesday, January

* Boro's home clash with Spurs is back on Saturday, March 30, after Sky decided not to make it a pay-per-view fixture.

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