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Americans Abroad

Onyewu's transfer to Middlesbrough is said to be near.

Oguchi Onyewu
Reports from England say Oguchi Onyewu is leaving Standard de Liège of Belgium for Middlesbrough and the English Premier League.
-- Standard de Liège web site photo --
By Robert Wagman
SoccerTimes

LONDON (Tuesday, June 6, 2006) -- United States defender Oguchi Onyewu appears to be close to moving to Middlesbrough of the English Premier League.

Middlesbrough has been without a manager since Steve McClaren moved to coach England's national team. Even before hiring a new manager, chairman Steve Gibson has been quite active in the transfer market and his said to be close to signing Onyewu, 24, for a transfer fee in the neighborhood of $1.8 million.

"Gooch," who is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds, is in Hamburg, Germany, where he is preparing with the United States for its June 12 World Cup opener against the Czech Republic. Expected to start with Eddie Pope in the middle of the American defense, Onyewu, who has one goal in 12 appearances with the U.S., is on the cover of the June 5 issue of Sports Illustrated.

While Boro and Onyewu's current club, Standard de Liège of Belgium, presumably are attempting to finalize a transfer fee, the player has cautioned the media that nothing is certain, citing previously false rumors that he was heading to the Premiership's Manchester United.

The Boro chairman, however, apparently is anxious to get the American's signature on a contract quickly. "We can't wait, deals are being made now," said Gibson, who is reportedly near to closing deals with German international defender Robert Huth, a 21-year-old who spent the last four seasons with two-time EPL champion Chelsea, and Cameroon national-team winger Rudolph Douala, who has been with Portugal's Sporting Lisbon.

In the meantime, Middlesbrough has called a press conference for tomorrow afternoon when it is expected to name Gareth Southgate its new manager. Southgate, 35, is a defender who has spent the last five seasons with Boro and has 77 international appearances with England's national team. He suffered a serious knee injury in April.

Onyewu has been looked at by a number of major English clubs, such as Chelsea and Manchester United, but reportedly the two powers wanted to wait until after the World Cup to assess his value. Gibson has expressed a desire to make his moves now, though he has also said all signings will be conditional on the approval of a new manager.

Onyewu, a weight-room denizen, has appeared for the U.S. in under-20 and under-17 world championship tournaments. After playing two college seasons at Clemson, he signed a four-year contract with Metz of France in March 2002.

Onyewu never really caught on in France and was sent to Belgium on loan, first to La Louvière and then to Standard. Near the end of 2004, Standard exercised its option and acquired Onyewu's contract. A starter for two years, Onyewu helped Liège (19-7-8, 65 points) to a second-place finish behind Anderlecht (20-4-10) in Belgium's Jupiler League

Onyewu would need to obtain a work permit to play for Middlesbrough, but that should not be a problem since he is set to start in the World Cup for the U.S. A major requirement for issuance of a permit is that a player regularly represent his nation in major competitions.

Robert Wagman is SoccerTimes senior correspondent. He stopped in London on his way to the World Cup.

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