Double swoop as MIddlesbrough bolster ranks

MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray took steps to bolster his squad for the battle against the Championship drop yesterday as he landed two new signings before the close of last night’s transfer window.

MIDDLESBROUGH boss Tony Mowbray took steps to bolster his squad for the battle against the Championship drop yesterday as he landed two new signings before the close of last night’s transfer window.

Maximilian Haas of Bayern Munich’s second string – who play in the third tier of German football – and Hibernian’s Moroccan playmaker Merouanne Zemmama both put pen to paper.

Haas joins on an 18-month deal for an undisclosed fee and can play in both the centre of defence as well as in midfield.

The 25-year-old began his career for Landesliga side SE Freising and spent four years there before joining Bayern Munich II in 2007. Despite breaking into the first team squad last season, his only appearances for Louis van Gaal’s side came in pre-season friendlies.

Of his German acquisition, Mowbray said: “Maximilian was very keen to come here and test himself in English football. It’s a challenge for him and his arrival will create additional competition for places in that area of the pitch.

“He is a real competitor and comfortable with the ball. The challenge for him is to acclimatise to the English game and then take any opportunity that comes his way.”

Zemmama is a midfielder who plays just behind the strikers and has won seven caps for Morocco. Mowbray had signed him for Hibs in 2006 prior to his switch to West Bromwich Albion and knows how much of a talent the 27-year-old is.

He said: “He is a very technical player who can handle the ball comfortably with both feet. He can dribble, shift the ball from side to side, be positive and create chances and he also has great dead-ball delivery. He’s a fantastically fit guy – he loves playing football and the hope would be that he settles in quickly. I’ve got no fears about his ability. He’ll create chances and give us that little bit of creativity which we have lacked.”

Zemmama was later farmed out on loan to UAE side Al-Shaab before returning only for his second spell at Easter Road to be dogged with injuries.

The 27-year-old joins Middlesbrough on a three-and-a-half year deal but, like Haas, for an undisclosed fee.

Mowbray had been hoping to prise Newcastle United forward Xisco on a six-month loan, but the Spaniard opted to go back to Spain and join Deportivo La Coruña.

Kilmarnock’s Conor Sammon was also believed to be on Mowbray’s radar but Derby County looked to be leading the chase for him last night. Despite Middlesbrough capturing the duo, they are unlikely to feature against Scunthorpe United in tonight’s Championship clash at the Riverside.

Mowbray himself will be assessing the aftermath of the transfer window this morning in order to see what resources are available to him for tonight’s game.

Seb Hines will be expected to feature alongside Matthew Bates in the centre of defence, but it is 50-50 as to whether or not midfielder Barry Robson will feature, having suffered a gashed foot in the recent 1-1 draw at home to Preston North End. But it will be up front which could pose a headache to Mowbray. Last night, Middlesbrough strike duo Leroy Lita and Kris Boyd were linked with possible moves out of Teesside.

Queens Park Rangers were said to be interested in both while other interest for Boyd is believed to be from clubs as far-flung as Turkey and Russia. A return to Rangers was mooted but that appeared to have died a death after the Ibrox side signed Sunderland’s David Healy.

Middlesbrough’s other striking options were also being sought after with the club resisting Swansea’s overtures for Marvin Emnes, while Scott McDonald was attracting the interest of a number of clubs in the Middle East.

One striker who has left Teesside is Lee Miller, who has joined tonight’s opponents Scunthorpe on loan.

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