Tuesday 13 May ~
Kevin Keegan's much heralded meeting with Newcastle's owner Mike Ashley at a London hotel last Friday was said to have been “amicable”, which could simply mean that they have decided to accept that they don't understand one another. It is claimed that Ashley outlined his new transfer strategy for Newcastle which is said to involve buying players cheaply in Africa and South America then selling them on. Keegan is believed to have made a case, very likely an impassioned plea, for the club to retain Michael Owen on a long-term contract. Ashley, however, is known to want to trim Owen's salary which currently stands at £120,000 a week. Owen would like to be able to use that as a reason to look for another club. But none of the clubs who can pay that sort of money want him.
Last weekend, several newspapers claimed that Man Utd were considering a bid for Owen who they supposedly hope to get for £7 million. But all the talk was of “informal contacts” between the clubs with no direct comments from anyone at Man Utd. It's quite likely that Sir Alex Ferguson would be looking to sign a back-up striker but an injury-prone 28-year-old is unlikely to figure prominently in his plans. Man Utd are now said to have been “perplexed” by these reports which seem likely to have been the product of some fast phone calls from Owen's representatives.
Rafa Benitez declined an opportunity to sign Owen when he was made available from Real Madrid, Chelsea have never shown any interest in him and Arsenal are in the process of losing players such as Hleb, and possibly Adebayor too, specifically because they don't want to pay the sort of wages that Owen could demand. The top teams in the next tier down, such as Everton and Villa, couldn't afford Owen either. Man City might be prepared to splash out but that would represent at best a sideways move from one chaotically run club to another. A Beckhamesque flit overseas is a possibility for a player who still has some international marketability and one J-League club, who have just appointed a British coach, seem to be at least mildly intrigued.
If Owen is determined to leave Newcastle he will just have to sit tight and refuse to contemplate a revised weekly salary of less than six figures – then quietly accept exactly that elsewhere for the sake of what will be need to be spun as “a fresh challenge”. He's only 28 but seems to have retired already.