McClaren backing for Maccarone
By Graeme Bailey
Last Updated: 01/01/70 1:00am
The 24-year-old has failed to live up to his £8 million price tag since arriving at the club from Empoli in 2002.
Injury has beset his stay, though, and that has limited him to just 35 starts - from which he has scored 12 goals.
Maccarone missed a penalty in the midweek win over Tottenham and some of the Riverside faithful turned on the young Italian, but McClaren is still hopeful he will make it on Teesside.
"Players have peaks and troughs, but we know we need the likes of Massimo and Nemeth between now and the end of the season," said McClaren.
"Maccarone has the ability. He started like a house on fire when he came here and finished last season very well.
"This season, he was very unfortunate to be out for a couple of months at the start through injury. I would be more worried if he didn't have the ability - but I know he has.
"I'm still confident he is going to be a success here. His reaction when he has come on of late has proved that he still has the hunger. He's adapting well and starting to come through.''
McClaren has also insisted the club are still trying to have talks over Stewart Downing - despite the fact the youngster has told them he wants to see out his contract.
The England Under-21 star is out of contract in the summer and Boro realise he is the best prospect to emerge from their youth system in a number of years.
"I've spoken to him three times previously and every time he's left my office he's stated he wants to stay at Middlesbrough and he wants to pledge his future here," said McClaren.
"I've just had a word with him this morning after all the speculation and reports I've read and he re-emphasised that he wants to sign for Middlesbrough.
"So we're going to get his agent in next week and sort it out. I'll be absolutely delighted if it gets resolved next week."
Meanwhile, the Boro boss also revealed that Brazilian star Ricardinho is still not match fit - despite the fact he has been with the club nearly six weeks.
The 27-year-old World Cup winner arrived at the club in January on a free transfer and was expected to compete for a place - but he is not yet in a position to do so.
"He has just started to get a bit of fitness back," said McClaren.
"Unfortunately, we've not had enough reserve games to get him match fit, but he is starting to improve his fitness now.''