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Xavier close to Boro contract after serving doping ban

LONDON, Nov 3 (Reuters) - Former Portugal defender Abel Xavier is close to agreeing a contract with Premiership side Middlesbrough after serving out a doping ban.

Middlesbrough cancelled his contract in January after an appeal against a positive test for the performance-enhancing steroid dianabol was rejected by UEFA.

'We're close to offering Abel a contract,' Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate told the club's website.

'He's getting stronger by the week and I think it's a position where we need some cover.

'His experience and enthusiasm have been a real plus around the place. He's popular with the guys here and he's got a point to prove.'

Xavier, who joined Middlesbrough from AS Roma in August last year, became the first Premier League player to be banned for doping when he failed a test after a UEFA Cup tie against Xanthi the following month.

Originally banned for 18 months, his suspension was cut to 12 months by the Court of Arbitration for Sport in July.

Born in Mozambique, Xavier has played 20 times for Portugal and had spells with Benfica, Bari, PSV Eindhoven, Everton and Liverpool.