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Last Updated: Friday, 19 August 2005, 14:35 GMT 15:35 UK
Benitez denies Owen bid reports
Michael Owen
Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez has denied that he is close to bringing striker Michael Owen back to Liverpool.

The 25-year-old Real Madrid forward has been repeatedly linked with a return to his former club, as well as Newcastle and Manchester United.

"I read the Spanish press and I smile," Benitez told Liverpool's website. "They say we have made an offer - we have not made an offer.

"As I keep saying I want to sign a central defender and not a forward."

Speculation about Owen returning to Anfield has been fuelled by reports that Liverpool forwards Milan Baros and Djibril Cisse may leave the club.

Cisse was linked with a move to Lyon but their manager Gerard Houllier has rejected any move for the French international.

Lyon, however, have made a bid for Baros and are competing with Aston Villa for the Czech international's signature.

But, even if Baros leaves, Benitez seems unlikely to bring in another forward to replace him.

"Sometimes we only play with one striker, so five or six strikers is enough," added the Spaniard. "When there is talk of Owen I always want to make my strikers feel confident.

"They are working well, they have scored a lot of goals in pre-season and I am happy with them and the team.

"If we can improve we will try, but only in the defence. We know how important Michael was here so it is normal that people talk about him.

Houllier was rumoured to be eyeing Owen but the player appears to favour a move back to the Premiership.

Owen's future at Real is in doubt after the Spanish giants signed Robinho and Julio Baptista to complement an attacking force already boasting Raul and Ronaldo.

And, with Owen seemingly fifth choice, he has been linked with leaving the Bernabeu for more regular first-team football in World Cup year.

Liverpool received 8m and Antonio Nunez for Owen when they sold him last summer and Real are believed to want at least 10m for the hitman.

News conference: Rafael Benitez


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