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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 May, 2003, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
Liverpool move to keep Owen
Exclusive by Phil McNulty
Chief football writer

Liverpool striker Michael Owen
Michael is a genuine world-class player
Gerard Houllier
Liverpool are poised to offer Michael Owen a new long-term contract as boss Gerard Houllier moves to make up for missing out on the Champions League.

Houllier is determined to re-shape his squad to make a serious assault on the Premiership title next season.

Defeat at Chelsea on the final day of the season robbed them of a place in Europe's elite competition.

And BBC Sport can reveal talks about a new deal for England striker Owen will be high on the Anfield agenda this summer.

Houllier is chasing high-quality signings to strengthen Liverpool, but the club's hierarchy also hope to persuade Owen to commit himself to a new contract.

Owen has two years left on his current deal, and Liverpool's failure to reach the Champions League led to speculation about his long-term future.

But Liverpool are confident Owen will stay at Anfield, and Houllier told this website how highly he regards the player he labels "genuine world class".

He told BBC Sport: "Michael's contract will be dealt with in due course. He is happy here.

"He knows what I think of him and he knows what the club and the fans think of him.

We want to win the title - this is our vision at Liverpool
Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier

"Michael is a genuine world-class player. He has had a great season and I think he will be even better next season."

Owen has rid himself of the hamstring problems that haunted his career, and Houllier explained: "He has been working a lot on fitness and strengthening of his muscles, so he will be better next year."

He added: "We want to win the title. This is our vision at Liverpool - and we want to win it with Michael in our team."

Houllier will complete a 4m deal for Fulham's Steve Finnan in the close season, and has also made Blackburn's 12m-rated winger Damien Duff a prime target.

He insists Liverpool will not be buying potential this summer, but operating at the top end of the market for proven players.

"I don't think we need a lot. One or two, maybe three who will be an asset to the team right away, not those we need to settle in the team. We want players who will get in right away and play in the team."


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