Rumours of Michael Owen’s alleged unrest at Newcastle United have inevitably fuelled speculation about a return to Liverpool.
Owen has a £9m “buy out” cause in his contract and since his return from injury a few weeks ago the press has been full of speculation about his future. Much of this has brought on by the verbose antics Newcastle Chairman Freddie Shepherd who clearly doesn’t know the meaning of the word tact. Commenting on Owen’s future we get this….
“I’m telling Michael he has two choices. He either comes out and tells our fans, who have taken him to their hearts, that he is happy here or I tell him that not one of the big four clubs, Man United, Chelsea, Arsenal or Liverpool, are interested in him.”
Added to this we have the release of a video on YouTube of Shepherd spouting off to some of our fans. Apparently he would
“carry Michael Owen back [to Liverpool] for £9m”.
Some fans get what they deserve. Newcastle have some of the best fans in the country if not the world but they have Freddie Shepherd as Chairman. Life just isn’t fair sometimes! If I were Michael Owen I’d be initially tempted, on the basis of the first statement alone, to go and tell Shepherd to ***k himself and accept any offer just to p*** him off. But how much of Shepherd’s frustration is justified or is it just premeditated bullying b***sh*t from the chairman just to put Newcastle fans off baying for his removal?
Shepherd has since relented but has still suggested that something isn’t quite right.
“He’s a great player and as far as I’m concerned I’ve got no problem with him. He’s done nothing wrong to me; I’m quite happy relationship-wise. But like any player, he has to make his mind up about what he wants to do. It’s up to him. The ball’s in his court.”
Couple this with the fact that Owen and his advisors have refused to speak of his commitment to Newcastle and there is also the ongoing dispute with the FA over compensation for his World Cup injury. So, could there be something in it and does this mean he will return to Anfield?
If Owen were to return to Liverpool he wouldn’t be the first striker to do this. Both Ian Rush and Robbie Fowler returned “home” for second spells. It’s difficult to guess how Benitez felt when Owen left for Real Madrid in August 2004. Was he glad as it meant he could get his own players in? Or did it spark a strike problem for him that, in all honesty, still hasn’t been fully solved to this very day?
You don’t get any clues when Owen, after a reasonably successful time at Real Madrid (when he was picked), became available again in the summer of 2005. There was no way Liverpool were going to pay Real’s asking price. It would have been a massive embarrassment for them if they had paid the £16m Newcastle paid for him having let him go for £8m plus Antonio Nunez.
Would Benitez be tempted to buy Owen now? I doubt it. Rafa probably has his own ideas about who he wants and I wouldn’t be surprised if they were long held ones. You also have to consider that Owen, even at £9m, could be a risk. He has just returned from a serious injury and although he has played a few games the jury is still out over how well he has recovered. Pace was one of Owen’s many assets as a younger player. Injuries have blunted that and this one might exacerbate it. We will probably have to wait until Christmas to see if he’s alright.
It’s for this reason that I don’t think he will end up leaving. In addition Sam Allardyce, the new Newcastle manager, is thought to be keen on keeping Owen. He was fine about his absence from the training ground yesterday. Alan Shearer, who was influential force in getting Owen to come to St James’ Park, has spoken of Owen’s “guilt” over the injuries that have only limited to just over a dozen appearances for the club. He owes it to Newcastle and their fans to make a go of it. The club showed great patience over his injury and he, through no fault of his own, hasn’t really had the opportunity to repay that faith yet.
I wonder how much regret plays a part in all of this. It is reported that Owen was disappointed that Liverpool didn’t come in for him in 2005. His old team’s visit to Istanbul and the impending one to Athens must constantly gnaw at him, especially as further success in competitions such as The Champions League was one of the reasons he left us in the first place. He will also start the new season playing for a club that will not be in Europe at all whilst some of his old Liverpool mates could have two Champions League medals on their mantelpieces.
For all the arguments about “guilt”, staying loyal and repaying faith I bet, if he could pull if off without causing an uproar on Tyneside and he was wanted, Owen would jump at the chance to go home. Even so this would be a poor second to what I suspect would be his ultimate, but impossible, wish… to turn back the hands of time by two and half years?
And, for all of this, there is one thing … many of our fans still can’t imagine him in anything other than a Liverpool shirt!