Brendan Rodgers, the Liverpool manager, has decided against approaching Michael Owen about a return to Anfield, despite the club's desperate need of striking reinforcements.
The prospect of a free agent being brought in has not been excluded, though a return now for Owen would be dependent on the club receiving a highly incentivised pay-as-you-play proposal which would limit their exposure if fitness problems rendered him unable to play. Liverpool, who as of yesterday afternoon had not had contact from Owen, would be unlikely to match the imaginative £10-15,000 a week deal Manchester United struck with the 32-year-old.
Though Owen is looking for a club commutable from his North Wales home and still holds Liverpool in huge affection, the £30,000-a-week, two-year offer from Stoke City looks far more likely.
Rodgers conclusions on Owen were reached as Liverpool's principal owner, John W Henry, yesterday took the highly unusual step of publishing an open letter, defending the transfer market activity which saw the manager denied Fulham's Clint Dempsey as the replacement he had expected when sending Andy Carroll out on loan to West Ham.
Henry admitted there had been mistakes during Fenway Sports Group's "difficult" two years of ownership, accepting they have overspent on inflated transfer fees and unrealistic wages. "[This] will not happen overnight. It has been a difficult first two years of ownership," Henry said.
The spending splurge of the Kenny Dalglish era – when the £50m received for Fernando Torres provided a reason for paying a premium price for Carroll – prompted an opposite reaction last Friday when Fulham were asking £7m for Dempsey. Henry did not reveal who in the Liverpool hierarchy decided that such a price was too high, though he did hint at FSG's aversion to signing older players. "Our ambitions do not lie in cementing a mid-table place with expensive, short-term quick fixes that will only contribute for a couple of years," he said. Henry was unable to absolve the owners or the club of the decision not to attach a caveat to discussions with West Ham, which would have prevented Carroll leaving if no replacement for him came in last week.