Saturday, August 27, 2005

The Michael Owen Saga By Sashi

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Aizuddin isn’t the only one glued to news updates on the Owen transfer saga.

From the first moment when Owen left Liverpool to join Real Madrid, I harbored secret hopes that he would return eventually to Anfield - kinda like how Rushie returned from a single-season spell at Juventus back in 1988.

Now, after a single - yet reasonably successful for a regular benchwarmer - season at Real, Owen’s coming back to England. Of this, there can be no longer any doubt.

Real want to cash in on player sales to recoup some of their outlay on recent Brazilian imports. And Owen will be the one to sacrifice. He has accepted this. He is moving. But where to?

Caroline Cheese (BBC) points out the clever game being played by Michael Owen and (presumably) his advisors.

His press statements have had the general effect of keeping everybody happy and yet on tenterhooks.

And his most recent statement - where he quite clearly indicates that his preferred destination is Liverpool, while Newcastle would only be a second-choice LOAN option - has had the effect of galvanizing supporters from both clubs.

Newcastle, as we have observed this season, are having a bit of a problem finding the goal. Since the laws of football prevent players stopping in the middle of the game to ask for directions, Newcastle manager Graeme Souness has decided it would be a better, albeit very expensive, option to sign a player who could find the back of the net while moonwalking backwards blindfolded.

The transfer fee mooted by Newcastle’s “dynamic” *snigger* duo is believed to be in the region of £ 17 million, breaking their previous club - and one-time world - record for a transfer fee.

And if Owen was to sign up with the Toon Army, he is very likely to find himself in the starting line-up quite regularly, possibly partnering the grand old master Shearer himself.

But you know what? I’m not so sure that a Shearer-Owen partnership would be very fruitful - not now, anyway. The little-and-large routine might have worked a few years ago, but I’m beginning to think that Shearer has passed his prime now. He should have retired like he said last season. He’s entering Sheringham-territory now - although there is no doubting his inspirational value for the club, and maybe for that reason alone, he is worth keeping at the club for a season or two.

But as a strike partner for Owen, I suspect Newcastle need someone else - which might explain their decision in purchasing Albert Luquefrom Deportivo for £ 9.5 million.

And in case Owen decides to skip Newcastle’s offer, at least the Magpies will have a new striker anyway.

But what of Liverpool? Owen’s admission that he wants to return to Anfield has undoubtedly put Liverpool boss Rafa Benitez in a tight spot. He has stated time and again that his preferred targets are a centre-back and a right-winger. And with Cisse, Morientes, Crouch, and Sinama-Pongolle on the roll call, another striker is not a major priority.

Or is it? Those of us who have been watching the Reds’ performances recently will be slightly worried at our own strike problems. The fact that our leading goal scorer is a midfielder (Stevie G) points to the inability of our strikeforce to get in the groove. But of course, it is still early days, and most strike pairings require some time before the players gel. But is that a risk worth taking? Especially with the transfer window closing on 31st August, after which all speculation and wishful thinking and 20/20 hindsight becomes moot, at least until January.

Lyon boss and Liverpool managerial alumni Gerard Houllier has already expressed his interest in Cisse, and has money to burn following the sale of Essien to Chelski. And it is possible that only by selling a striker can Rafa move for another striker.

Indeed, The Times are reporting that Liverpool CEO has already had discussions with two French clubs over a possible Cisse transfer deal.

Seriously, I like Cisse and all, but I can’t wait forever for him to find the net. Besides, it’s becoming clearer that the Cisse-Morro combo isn’t working too well. Too bad Crouch is out injured, so we can’t fully determine how well he works with the other strikers, although initial reports of his performances during the Champions League qualifiers have been encouraging.

If Rafa does succumb to the supporters’ (and apparently the board of directors‘) wishes and makes a move for Owen, there are still many factors to consider and loose ends to tie up: the type of transfer (permanent, loan), transfer fee (if any), wage packet, etc.

And all this will have to be sorted out by 31st August.

So let’s get a move on, Rafa. Bring the boy man home. Let’s give him something to celebrate this Merdeka…


Newcastle chief in Owen ultimatum[BBC Sport]

Time running out for Owen deal - Toon chief [Soccernet]

Magpies on brink of Luque signing [BBC Sport]

Inside Michael’s mind [BBC Sport]

Liverpool ready for approach to rescue Owen [The Independent]

Liverpool might gamble on Owen [The Telegraph]

Parry steps up chase for Owen with Cissé offer[The Times UK]

Liverpool finally break cover for Owen[The Guardian]

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