Times: Owen return to Anfield most likely

Owen in training for RealFurther to what we’ve been reporting this week about the chances of Liverpool’s former striker Michael Owen making a return to Anfield, the main press now seem to be realising what Rafa Benitez actually said about a move for the England star.

According to Matt Dickinson, Chief Football Correspondent of The Times, Liverpool are now ahead of Manchester United in the list of most likely destinations for Owen. United confirmed yesterday that their £12.8 million signing Louis Saha had been under the surgeon’s knife and the operation on the player’s knee will make it "all but impossible" for the striker to be sold before the transfer window closes.

Rafa Benitez did not rule out a move for Owen earlier in the week – despite what many reports were claiming – and The Times now believe that Owen could become a Liverpool player again – as long as the Reds sell Milan Baros.

Baros is getting nearer to a move away from Anfield, but there has still not been a firm offer for the player. Liverpool may have to drop their asking price of £7million before the player will leave.

The Times say , "Owen would jump at the chance to return to the North West," and that Liverpool have a verbal first option on the player.

We’ve already pointed out this week that Owen wants to come home, to Anfield, and that Liverpool are looking into how they can facilitate this move. Despite reports saying that Rafa Benitez was unwilling to sign the player this was never the case. For the right price, Benitez would be glad to sign the player. Liverpool were not paid the full £8million up-front for Owen by Madrid, so the actual costs to sign the player may be a little lower than would be expected. Twelve months ago Rafa Benitez let the player go after the temptation of the move to Real had been too difficult to resist. If Owen had stayed he would have been less motivated and would have probably left on a free transfer, leaving on a sour note. Owen’s transfer was amicable though and a year later he’ll be likely to return more motivated than he was when he left, with the possibility of being ready to accept less in wages than he would have got if he’d stayed at Anfield.

Jerzy Dudek is still earmarked for a move out of Anfield, adding to the funds for Benitez to spend on players. Rafa’s aim to bring a centre-back and a right-winger in by the end of the week just gone did not get fulfilled, but Liverpool are still closing in. The Reds hit a setback yesterday when left-winger Mark Gonzales was denied a work permit due to Chile being outside FIFA’s top 70 teams. Liverpool are reconsidering their options, although the player would not be expected to be in action until October anyway.