24 August 2005

Michael Owen should stay at Real Madrid.

It must have been demoralising for Owen to have his agents desperately trying to find him a top club in England and having such little luck. None of the big three clubs were interested for reasons I will explain below. But even more of a blow for him must have been the dis-interest of Rafa Benitez.

It is obvious that Owen was desperate to sign for a top club like Liverpool but Rafa is just not interested in having back a player he was happy to offload to Real Madrid. Having just won the European Cup, who at Liverpool is going to queston Rafa's judgement.

If the rumoured interest of Everton is true, Owen should have bitten their hand off. Perhaps he felt it would have been too much of a snub to Liverpool fans, but that would not be his fault if Liverpool have turned him down. More likely he just didn't consider Everton to be a big enough club, which is a sad attitude when they are supposed to be the team he supported as a boy. Everton also have an excellent manager in David Moyes and money in the pot from the qualifying stages of the Champions League and now entry into the UEFA Cup. Owen could have used the European experience.

Now I have a lot of time for Owen, he has proved me wrong on a few occasions. I was the one who said that he was too short to be effective for England, but he proved me wrong with his sharp finishing and blistering pace (including the fantastic goal against Argentina) in the 1998 World Cup, which more than made up for his lack of height.

I do think however that his height has been a major factor in why the top clubs in the Premiership do not want him. Alan Hanson said as much on Match of the Day tonight. In the rough and tumble of winning the Premiership you need players, not only with blistering pace and sharp finishing, but also to get on to crosses with headed goals.

I've not seen much of Owen at Real Madrid, but it is evident he is looking a lot sharper in front of goal and indeed he has scored 13 goals despite only a few starts for them. He has always been a confidence player and this is good news for England because before joining Real his finishing was looking a bit suspect, without that he is nothing and this may be another reason why the top clubs are overlooking him. Also his age at 25, means he only has maybe 3-4 years of blistering pace left, not enough to warrant an £18m transfer fee and 5 year top wage contract.

It was always going to be a struggle for Owen at Real, with all the star names they have there, and to be fair he has given it a fair crack of the whip by being content to work his way into the team from the bench. However he has always been third and fourth on their rota and now might even be fifth choice striker.

Despite this, the worse thing Owen could do is accept the offer from Souness to move to Newcastle. Under Souness, a manager with a poor track record in the Premiership, Newcastle are going to be relegation strugglers. Owen needs top class European football if he is to maintain his England place, Newcastle have failed to qualify for Europe.

Also Owen still as four years left of an excellent contract at Real Madrid, and if he works hard and bides his time, with injuries and squad rotation he could still get a dozen starts for them, plus a dozen games for England. Sven has said that Owen's lack of games at Real does not threaten his England place. Indeed it might even be a bonus, keeping him rested and injury free for the World Cup.

With squad rotation now, many top players are having to get used to being regularly on the bench, Owen shouldn't let his pride at not being the best player at his club let him end up under Souness at Newcastle. I'm sure I wasn't the only one to raise an eyebrow at Souness's appointment there. The Blackburn fans were more than happy to see him go, as his departure and Mark Hughes appointment ther, probably saved them from relegation. Don't make the same mistake as the Newcastle board, Michael! Don't place your trust in Souness, because under him Newcastle are going nowhere. You will suffer poor service, score few goals and your confidence will be ruined. For the sake of England and your own career, stick it out at Real Madrid!

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