Stories in various Sunday papers were today linking Michael Owen with a move to Newcastle. Liverpool’s former annual top scorer would be moving to play alongside his former England team-mate Alan Shearer if the stories are true. The transfer fee in question varies from paper to paper, but is said to be anywhere between eighteen and twenty-million pounds. As always, this rumour ties in with others, with reports linking Rio Ferdinand to a £21million move to Real Madrid.
So would Owen come back to England just a year after leaving for a taste of life in Spain? If he did, would he choose Newcastle? He left Liverpool to try and win things – Graham Souness and Newcastle are in the bottom half of the Premiership, set to get their worst points record since they came into the Premiership. It remains to be seen what happens, but Owen would not consider Newcastle his first choice. The type of player he is means he would love to give it at least another season in Madrid – after spending the first two-thirds of the season out-of-favour, he’s managed to become a first-choice player towards the end of the season. This run has coincided with a massive improvement in form for the club, although this proved to be too little too late as Barcelona clinched La Liga last night. Owen will feel that a full season playing for Real would allow him to show the world just how good a striker he can be, and would bring him some honours in Spanish football.
Another consideration for Owen is his England future. Owen has always
been proud to play for England – one of the pet-hates of too many
Liverpool fans – and wants to ensure he doesn’t lose his place to
others. Sven Goran Ericsson has already made it clear that Owen needs
to be playing regularly to keep his place, so Owen will consider that
option too. It does look at this moment in time that he’s found favour
again at Madrid, and so he may well consider that he can risk at least
half a season in Spain.
His preferred choice if he were to come back to England would be
Liverpool. His home is in North Wales, in a remodelled mansion, and
he’d just got it exactly how he wanted it when he moved over to Spain.
A move to Newcastle might as well be Spain – he’d have almost as much
travelling time if he wanted to spend a bit of time at his home. It’s
highly unlikely he’d join Manchester United, for obvious reasons, even
though they do play near enough to North Wales for him to travel.
Chelsea could offer him more likelihood of honours than Newcastle, but
again might as well be in Spain in terms of proximity to his home.
Liverpool’s boss Rafa Benitez was asked earlier this season if he’d
take Owen back, and he said he would have no problem having him in his
team. Would Benitez pay £20 million for him? It’s unlikely, as Benitez
would be able to buy more than one player with that kind of money. That
doesn’t however rule out a loan deal, which would allow Owen to play
for the Reds whilst they pay his wages.
Owen himself spoke of his delight for Liverpool when they beat Chelsea
at Anfield earlier in the month. Owen was working for British TV that
night, but is unsure yet whether he’ll be able to go to the final:
“It’ll be a cracking occasion and I certainly won’t miss it on the
telly. But it might be a bit close to our league match the next
weekend.” Maybe not now though, with Real’s season over to all intents
and purposes he could be released to watch the game – but then again
England will be wanting him over in the USA too.
Of the defeat of Chelsea, Owen said: “I don’t think anybody would say
it was a classic but nobody will remember that in a few years. They’ll
remember who won. It was a good occasion because of the atmosphere.
I’ve never seen the fans like that at Anfield. I was sitting quite high
up in the stand and I could literally feel it swaying. There was that
Back in Spain interest in Liverpool has increased tremendously since
Owen left the club. A Spanish manager with Spanish players would always
draw attention, but the fact that there are no Spanish clubs left in
the Champions League increases the interest. Owen’s team-mates are now
constantly asking him about the Reds: “Everyone’s always asking me how
they’re getting on. I think if you asked the Real Madrid players who
they’re supporting, they’d say Liverpool. Some of the Madrid players
have half the team as their friends. I’ve got half the Liverpool team
as my friends.”
Owen is pleased about his biggest friend from his Anfield days, Jamie
Carragher: “Jamie’s one of those players who’s not in a fashionable
position. He’s played right-back, centre midfield, then left-back. But
now Mr Benitez has come in and settled him at centre-half and broken up
what had been an unbelievable partnership between Stephane Henchoz and
Sami Hyypia. There were a few eyebrows raised when he did that. It’s
been a gain from Liverpool’s point of view and certainly brought Jamie
on as a player."
Owen is obviously full of respect for Rafa Benitez, and bringing Jamie
Carragher up so many levels is the main reason why. Owen’s praise of
Carragher reflects what the majority of Liverpool fans have been saying
all season: “He’s Liverpool through and through; he always produces the
goods, he’s whole-hearted, but he does rise to the big occasion as
well. In the semi-final against Chelsea his defending was fantastic.
Apparently he’s been like that throughout the season as well. He’s one
of the best defenders in the country. If Jamie Carragher is fifth in
line for England centre-half, behind Rio Ferdinand, Sol Campbell, John
Terry and Ledley King, well, we must be the most blessed country in the
world for centre-halves. I don’t know what the order is exactly but if
England had a couple of injuries I don’t think it would matter too
Does Owen think Liverpool can overcome the odds and beat the favourites
in Turkey? "“Milan are definitely in the top three teams in Europe, But
it’s a one-off game and anything really can happen. Liverpool will have
to put in the sort of performance they did in the last two rounds and
we all now know they can."
Owen believes success in Istanbul would make a big difference to the
future of the Reds: “I think if you’d asked any fan at the start of the
season what they wanted to win, they’d have said the league. They want
to be the best in England again. But when you reach the final of the
biggest club competition in the world, with the money and the profile
that generates, it could turn a big corner for them. In a way, they
probably had as much chance of winning the Champions League as the
league, and it’s a strange situation that they’ve been so good in the
one competition and not so good in the Premiership. The Champions
League is more of a knockout competition now and one thing Liverpool
have been good at over the last three or four years is winning cups.
They certainly were when I was there. It’s difficult but it’s not
impossible. These are exciting times for the club and exciting times
for English football.”
Wherever Owen is on May 25th, you know that he’ll be cheering Liverpool
on as much as any other Liverpool fan. Whether he returns to Anfield to
joing those players remains to be seen.