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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 August 2005, 11:03 GMT 12:03 UK
Inside Michael's mind
By Caroline Cheese

Michael Owen
So, after weeks of speculation, Michael Owen has finally come clean over where he sees his future.

Or has he?

In fact, with Wednesday's statement, Owen has done exactly what you would expect from a man regarded as one of football's Mr Nice Guys: kept everyone happy.

But the canny 25-year-old has also ensured that the one person who cannot lose is him.

Ideally, says Owen, he wants to "start the season in the Real Madrid team".

Realistically, he knows that will not happen, with Ronaldo, Raul, Robinho and Julio Baptista all ahead of him in the pecking order.

But by reiterating his desire to stay and play, Owen, already a popular figure at Madrid after his 16 goals last season, has ensured he would not lose any of that affection should he opt to leave.

He will also maintain the good will he has built up among many football fans in general, who have watched and admired Owen's battle to overcome the unique situation at Real where status guarantees you a starting place, but form does not.

If he does not stay at Real, Owen says he favours a return to Liverpool, the club he left 12 months ago.

That admission has twin benefits.

Firstly, it encourages the Reds to make an offer, but secondly it appeases the Liverpool fans if he signs for one of their Premiership rivals.

Although it seems unlikely now, Owen could yet end up at Everton or Manchester United, a prospect which would previously have been completely unpalatable for the Anfield faithful.

But now Owen has stated his ideal destination is Liverpool, they cannot really justify turning him into a hate figure if he goes to another club - because if he does, it means the Reds did not want him.

Option number three for Owen is a loan move to Newcastle for the rest of the season, although the Magpies have since launched a bid to sign him on a permanent basis.

In World Cup year, Owen needs to be playing regularly, a luxury Newcastle can certainly offer - even if it is not in Europe.

But by committing himself to only one season, Owen gives himself a get-out clause.

If all goes well, he could sign permanently at the end of the season, taking on the mantle of goalscoring hero from the retiring Alan Shearer.

But if Newcastle show no sign of matching his ambitions of challenging for trophies, no one would blame an England striker, potentially approaching his peak age, for moving on.

With one week to go until the transfer window closes, Owen has put the ball in Liverpool's court, while keeping Newcastle and any other interested parties dangling.

But with Milan Baros gone, his current strikers struggling to score and many fans keen to see a former favourite return, Owen's statement may force Rafael Benitez to take the bait.


SEE ALSO
Owen should stay, says Gravesen
21 Aug 05 |  Europe
Benitez denies Owen bid reports
19 Aug 05 |  Liverpool


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