Alves signing proves ambition, insists Southgate
Middlesbrough boss Gareth Southgate is confident chairman Steve Gibson's decision to smash the club's transfer record for Afonso Alves will silence the doubters.
Gibson handed over an undisclosed fee, believed to amount to £12.7million, for the 27-year-old Brazilian striker just as the departing Jonathan Woodgate spoke of fulfilling his ambitions at Tottenham rather than with his hometown club.
However, Southgate was delighted with his chairman's statement of intent in capturing Alves from Dutch club Heerenveen amid stiff competition.
He said: 'We have to thank the support of the chairman for that. People have questioned the ambition of the club, but the ambition of the club still burns very strongly.
'It takes time to build a side and we have to build piece by piece, and we feel we are well on the way to doing that.
'Slowly but surely, we are improving as a team, and we feel Afonso coming is another piece of that jigsaw.'
Boro have made something of a virtue of balancing the books since the big-spending days of the Bryan Robson era, although it was successor Steve McClaren who set the previous transfer record when he paid Empoli £8.15million for Massimo Maccarone during the summer of 2002.
Southgate insists he does not spend Gibson's money lightly, but he is already aware of the excitement his latest purchase has sparked.
He said: 'It is fantastic to know that my chairman is supporting me in the transfer market, as he has done when things have not been going so well here.
'It's a great boost for everybody. There is a buzz about the town now with this signing, and that is important.
'I have said since I got the job that I want to fill the stadium and play the sort of football the fans want to see, and we are on the road to doing that.
'If we can couple that with results, hopefully we will progress as a club.'
A late decision will be made on whether Alves is fit enough to make his debut in Saturday's Premier League clash with Fulham at the Riverside Stadium.
However, once he does pull on his boots, the man who will wear the number 12 shirt insists his record fee will not be a burden.
Alves said: 'There are a lot of other players playing for Middlesbrough who have high quality, and as a team on the pitch we all have the responsibility to win.
The South American scored a staggering 49 goals for Heerenveen at a rate of one a game and hit seven in one match, a 9-0 demolition of Heracles Almelo in October.
Asked about his strengths, Alves said: 'I am a fast player with high quality. I love to take the left-hand side and I love counter-attacking.
'There is a high quality in the Premier League. They play faster and every team has the capacity to beat every other team.
'But, in general, we have the qualities that are needed to score and to win.'