When Middlesbrough broke their transfer record, in January 2008, they signed a player that had been in the illustrious company of both Romario and Ronaldo. He was a player that had only just become the third Brazilian player to top the goal scoring charts in the Dutch first division. Alfonso Alves would never again get anywhere near the heights of his legendary fellow countrymen.
On paper Boro looked to have purchased a genuinely potent goal machine. During his first season in the Dutch Eredivisie, with Heerenveen, he scored 34 goals in 31 games. It was an enviable record that very nearly won the Brazilian the 1994-95 ‘European Golden Boot Award.’ Roma’s Francesco Totti beat him to the coveted title by one solitary point. In his second game, of his second season, Alves scored a remarkable seven goals in one match. His goal scoring exploits attracted the interest of the Brazilian national team, but meeting up with the squad seemed to have a negative impact on the player. Apparently his Brazilian teammates would tease him for being at such a “small club.” Alves began missing training sessions and, despite still scoring for fun, was sold during the January transfer window. By the time that he left Heerenveen his total was 45 goals in 39 appearances.
The £12.7m that Boro paid to bring him to the Riverside was pricey but looked like it could prove excellent value for money. His debut half season in English football showed signs of promise. He scored two against Manchester United in a 2-2 draw and finished the season scoring a hat-rick in an 8-1 win over Manchester City.
But those early glimmers of light faded fast, and his first full season in the Premiership went on to be, what football scientists call, a disaster. By the time that Middlesbrough beat Barrow, 2-1 in the January third round of the FA Cup, the Brazilian had only scored 3 goals during the season. Only one of those had come from open play. Alves had scored the winning brace against Barrow, and despite the low level opposition it was hoped that it may kick start his scoring form. The Brazilian was certainly confident that it would, “All the strikers go through a time when they don’t score but that stage has gone away now. I haven’t felt under pressure.
Sometimes I have played very well but I haven’t scored. I knew the goals would come naturally. When I was in Holland, I scored 45 goals in 39 games.”
How wrong he was. He only managed one more goal in the Premier League that season and Middleborough were relegated. Boro decided to cut their losses and sold the Brazilian to Al-Saad for £7m. His grand total for the Riverside club had been 10 goals in 42 games.
Since leaving the North East of England Alves has continued to milk the gulf regions of the footballing world for money, having rediscovered a tiny, not remarkable, degree of his goal scoring touch. I wonder if there he still has to remind people of his goal scoring record in Holland?
image: © Doha Stadium Plus