Guest graemeh72 Posted May 11, 2007 Share Posted May 11, 2007 Anfield calls for boy who never wanted to leave By Tim Rich Last Updated: 1:20am BST 11/05/2007 The question was put to me by the host of an Irish football talkshow but it really should be asked by the Newcastle Evening Chronicle. "Why on earth should a club pay £16 million for a player and then insert a clause in his contract that he can leave for £9 million?" Because they were desperate. Because they were Newcastle United. Like Ian Rush: Michael Owen looks out of place in black-and-white The buy-out clause in Michael Owen's contract is exhibit A for the argument that he never really wanted to go to Newcastle. Although his chairman, Freddy Shepherd, might make a desperate plea for the player to show some loyalty to the club for whom he has played 13 games in two seasons, he ought not to feel betrayed. Owen never really wanted to play for Real Madrid either. Like Ian Rush, Owen looks out of place in a black-and-white shirt, let alone an all-white strip. All he has ever wanted to do is play for Liverpool and England. Given that almost his first act as Liverpool manager was to sell him, it is strange to think that, initially, Owen was far more positive about Rafael Benitez's appointment than Steven Gerrard, who had a deep bond with Gerard Houllier and was for a time suspicious that an influx of Spanish players would make Anfield a Valencia on the Mersey. Had Houllier stayed, Liverpool would not have reached two European Cup finals but Owen might have remained. As a manager, the Frenchman was inferior to Benitez in every respect bar one. He was far better at dealing with players. Owen needed an arm round his shoulder, to be reminded of what he was to Liverpool and what Liverpool were and could be again. Benitez gave him no reassurances and Real Madrid stood glittering on the horizon. So Owen went and although he could talk about the lifestyle, the fact that in terms of goals per minute played he was a success at the Bernabeu, he was never at the heart of the club as he had been at Liverpool, he was never a galactico. On the afternoon of Liverpool's European Cup final in Istanbul, Owen was in Madrid conducting a photo-shoot for Esquire magazine. "How was I meant to know?" he remarked. "If Steven Gerrard hadn't scored that goal against Olympiakos, they would have been out in the first round of the Champions League and the third round of the FA Cup. They finished fifth in the league, it would have been their worst season in 20 years." But Gerrard did score, they did win and when Owen, who had made little secret of his desire to return to Anfield, left the Bernabeu after a single trophyless season, neither Liverpool nor Benitez would sanction paying £16 million for someone they had sold for £8 million the summer before. Newcastle is a kind of Real Madrid Lite. If in Danny Blanchflower's words, football is all about the getting of glory, then Newcastle can offer plenty of the synthetic variety. At Bilbao, they call the San Mames Stadium, the "Cathedral" but compared to St James' Park, whose stands dominate the skyline of Tyneside, it is very low church. The crowds are vast, the salaries huge - Owen was paid nearly £6 million a year - the interest all consuming. There were 15,000 there to watch him sign while Alan Shearer told him how the Gallowgate End reveres its strikers. And they were desperate - hence the suicidally-low buy-out clause. When Gerrard and Owen discussed moves to hypothetical clubs away from Liverpool they always stipulated that wherever they went should be in the Champions League. Whatever Sam Allardyce is promising it is not an immediate return to Europe's top table but a root-and-branch reform of an institution who have somehow managed to spend more than £236 million in 15 years without winning anything more than the Intertoto Cup. Owen is 27; he has not played properly since December 2005, he would be a risk for any manager but with American money about to flood through Anfield, Benitez has room to gamble and, as he proved with Peter Crouch and Robbie Fowler, he likes a wild card. It is time to bring the boy home. Link to post Share on other sites More sharing options...
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