According to Henry Winter from the Telegraph, there's a
mini-campaign going on at Anfield to bring back Michael Owen. In his
column today , Winter says: "Liverpool's two most important players,
Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher, have asked the club's American owners to
bring Michael Owen back to Anfield. George Gillett and Tom Hicks are keen but
Rafa Benitez, the Liverpool manager, is less enthusiastic and any deal is
unlikely." Carra and Gerrard are with the England squad at the moment.
Owen's buy-out clause is said to be on a sliding scale, and
after being set at £12m last summer it has now dropped down to just £9m. If a
fully-fit Michael Owen had been on the field in Athens in that first-half it's
almost certain that Liverpool fans would now be wearing t-shirts with six stars
on, but the words "fully-fit" and "Michael Owen" are rarely
seen together these days.
Bringing Owen back would be controversial, with a lot of
supporters still upset about the way he left in 2004, then the way he wouldn't
"sit tight" and wait for Real Madrid to give in and accept
Liverpool's offer in 2005. A year ago there were strong rumours that Owen would
be signed again, if he could prove his fitness in the World Cup. Of course he
broke down again, with an injury that kept him out for most of the following
season. If Liverpool can negotiate a deal to bring him back for £9m with some
of that fee held back against appearance, insurance against injuries, Owen
would be a good buy. Many of those who are still dead set against him would
adopt the usual line of Liverpool fans, that once a player is a in a Red shirt
he deserves our support. And if Owen started banging the goals in his support
would increase quickly.
It's no surprise to hear Carra and Gerrard talking about
bringing Michael home again. They all knew each other as kids back their LFC
academy days. But with the turmoil currently going on behind the scenes at
Anfield there is a question mark as to what Tom and George are thinking of if
they want Owen back. Is Rafa not keen because of the two effective snubs from
Owen in 2004 and 2005? Or is it for footballing reasons? If Liverpool can
negotiate Owen's signature for as low as £8m that is, when all other off-field
issues are removed, a bargain. Owen is a proven top-flight English striker.
Liverpool almost got £8m for Djibril Cisse last summer, until his broken leg
brought the deal to an early end. As hard as Cisse tried, and as much as he
professed his love for Liverpool FC (something Owen never really was all that
good at doing publicly), Djibs just wasn't a top-quality Premiership striker.
It's unlikely that Tom and George realise any of this, so
why are they allegedly keen on bringing the little striker back? The more
cynical view is that they have seen the reports from when Robbie Fowler came
back and now assume that the excitement will be the same if Owen returns. It
won't be. A lot of fans will be happy, and if he returns to his best form a few
more will be happy, but Owen's return will not be treated in the same way as
If he does come back, I would recommend he has a quiet word
with Carra about how to talk the talk when it comes to press conferences.
Whether he means it or not, he would need to start giving Liverpool fans the
impression that Liverpool FC were his priority, not England. And perhaps he
ought to start off that way if any talks between his people and LFC do take
place this summer.
Owen is not going to be popular on Tyneside at all if he
leaves this summer. He's barely played for Newcastle since he joined them, and
the Toon Army are demanding loyalty. But Owen is, as strikers should be,
extremely single-minded. If he feels a better option is there for him
personally he will take it. And spending the next season as part of Sam
Allardyce's new Wimbledon isn't exactly right for Owen.
One tale that barely got off the ground towards the tail-end
of last week was that Allardyce was looking to swap Owen for Peter Crouch.
Newcastle have been linked with Crouch since about six months after he arrived
at Anfield. The speculation will never end, but Crouch himself is happy with
what Rafa has told him. "He told me I'm part of his plans and that's good
enough for me. I'll relax over the summer and come back hungry for more. At
Liverpool there's going to be competition for places, especially as the manager
likes to chop and change."
Crouch is also currently with the England squad alongside
Carra, Gerrard and Scott Carson preparing for the matches against Brazil and
Estonia. With Fowler already gone as his contract came to an end, and Bellamy
certain to go if the right offer comes in, it's no secret that Rafa is changing
his striking options for the new season. Crouch accepts that there is never
likely to be a "first choice" forward while he's there. He just knows
he's got to keep doing his best: "He is going to bring top class players
in so you always have to be on your toes."
Meanwhile Sami Hyypia has told the media in Finland that he's
going to remain at Anfield next season. He's dismissed tales that he'd turned
down a move to Fulham over money, saying he never actually spoke to Fulham, and
says that like Crouch he has had a meeting with Rafa to find out his future.
Sami said he had a two-minute meeting with Rafa before the final in Athens in
which Rafa got straight to the point. According to Sami, "Rafa said, 'We
are happy with you and you are not for sale'. I will go back to Liverpool again
in July for pre-season training. Next season will be my ninth at Liverpool and
I still have one year left on my contract."
Rafa is said to be frustrated at the lack of action so far
from the new owners and the chief executive Rick Parry in terms of sorting out
the contract extensions for the star names. There are echoes of 2005 all over
again when Steven Gerrard nearly left the club after getting the impression the
club weren't all that bothered about keeping him. The club need to get key
players to commit themselves to long-term deals to prevent them buying
themselves out of contracts under new UEFA rules. Pepe Reina is one of those
players, a vital member of Rafa's plans, and although he wants to stay he's not
getting any signs from anyone other than Rafa that the club actually want him
to stay. Considering he was the subject of rumours he and his wife were feeling
homesick earlier in the season Rafa is said to be fuming at the lack of action
The words Rafa heard over the past few months from the
owners were like music to his ears, but the time for words is now over. Rafa
wants action, and doesn't seem to be getting it. Rafa is said to feel that the
new owners are stalling, and that's beginning to both worry and annoy him. His
outburst after the Champions League final, where he said those above him have
to stop delaying, was said to have been planned regardless of the result.