Nostalgic Owen has Gento's number

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The Independent Football

Michael Owen was yesterday unveiled as Real Madrid's latest galactico and handed the No 11 shirt previously worn by some of the club's greatest-ever names. In a choreographed ceremony at the Bernabeu stadium, Owen set out on a charm offensive, greeting the media in Spanish and revealing a knowledge of Real's rich history.

Michael Owen was yesterday unveiled as Real Madrid's latest galactico and handed the No 11 shirt previously worn by some of the club's greatest-ever names. In a choreographed ceremony at the Bernabeu stadium, Owen set out on a charm offensive, greeting the media in Spanish and revealing a knowledge of Real's rich history.

Owen has signed a four-year deal after deciding to leave Liverpool, who will receive £8m, plus midfielder Antonio Nunez in part exchange.

The England striker, who was handed his new shirt by Real legend Alfredo di Stefano, said: "My dad has been telling me about the great Real Madrid of the 1960s. He said Alfredo Di Stefano and Ferenc Puskas were unbelievable forwards and Paco Gento was the quickest No 11 he had ever seen. I am so proud to be wearing that No 11 shirt."

After meeting the press, Owen went on to the Bernabeu pitch to the cheers of around 250 fans in the vast arena and had a kick-about with a small boy. A public relations exercise it certainly was, but low-key compared to the circus which accompanied David Beckham's arrival last summer.

The man who masterminded both transfers, the Madrid president Florentino Perez, could not hide his delight at securing Owen. "We are opening the door to someone new," said Perez. "Signing Michael Owen is following our tradition. We are signing an excellent player with talent who is able to give us something special.

"He dreamed he would play for Real Madrid, he wanted to play for us. He has accepted the challenge of playing for Real Madrid with some of the best players in the world and some players of legend."

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