Middlesbrough are in a relegation dogfight and club-record signing Afonso Alves needs to deliver before Boro find themselves in the Championship.
Gareth Southgate paid around £12 million for the Brazilian frontman, who arrived on Teesside with a formidable goalscoring record. The 28-year-old plundered 45 goals in just 39 appearances for Heerenveen in the Dutch League, including a record seven in one match as Heracles Almelo were brushed aside 9-0.
His efforts in Eredivisie persuaded Southgate to pay big bucks for the Belo Horizonte-born star, but so far the big striker has failed to deliver and Boro face relegation into the Championship.
The Teessiders are next to bottom and at today's latest odds as short as 2.38 to be relegated into the second tier and how they could do with their former Malmo striker to find his form.
Alves, who signed back in Jan. 2008, has managed only four Premier League goals in 28 top-flight matches this season. Southgate has continued to back his man, but even he appears to be losing faith with Alves, who has been an unused substitute in the last two matches—a 4-0 defeat by Spurs and a 2-0 success over Liverpool.
Boro's frontline striker has just one strike to his name in his last 14 Premier League games and the Riverside club's lack of goals—just 20 in 28 games—must be a concern for Southgate with the end of the season in sight.
Turkey star Tuncay and England winger Stewart Downing do have the ability to give Boro a fighting chance of survival, but Alves must start scoring and fast or else Middlesbrough can forget the Premier League.
Phil Tomlinson is a professional sports writer who blogs about football and football betting.
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