Real exit puts galacticos in dock and Owen in frame

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The Independent Online

David Beckham was defiant, Michael Owen sanguine, as Real Madrid yesterday reflected on a Champions' League exit which, being horribly premature by the club's exalted expectations, has prompted speculation about a clear-out of galacticos.

David Beckham was defiant, Michael Owen sanguine, as Real Madrid yesterday reflected on a Champions' League exit which, being horribly premature by the club's exalted expectations, has prompted speculation about a clear-out of galacticos.

Beckham, who attributed his quiet performance against Juventus on Wednesday night in part to carrying a back injury, faces a second successive season without silverware at Madrid but insisted he was staying at the club to remedy the failure. "This is a big blow," he said, "but I don't want to finish my contract at Real without winning anything. I've got two years left and I want to win something."

Marca, the well-connected Madrid newspaper, said that Real president Florentino Perez would offload three of his star players this summer. Their identities were not revealed but Luis Figo, Ronaldo and Roberto Carlos are the likely candidates. No galactico, however, performed to potential in Turin.

In Owen's case it was hardly his fault. He played only 24 minutes, most of them on the wing, in a side which had lost direction after Ronaldo's dismissal and what proved to be Marcelo Zalayeta's winning goal.

"I was asked to play on the right wing," Owen said, deadpan, afterwards. Of the result he added: "I've had plenty of ups and downs while I've been here, I'm becoming immune to it."

In truth, it was not such a bad night for Owen. His limited participation meant that he will not be a scapegoat, unlike Raul, whose abysmal performance highlighted the folly of preferring him to the Englishman. If the result prompts big changes Owen is likely either to be picked, or sold.

The irony of Liverpool progressing while Real went out was not lost on Owen, but he only wished his former club well. "Every time they lose people say I made the right decision in coming here; when they win people say, 'Do you wish you were there?' he said. "That's inevitable."

"It's been an amazing season for them. I've kept in touch and it seems it's been the end of the world one week, then next they are on top of it again. They just need a few results to go for them and it could be one of their best seasons for 20 years.

"If they get a favourable draw, before they know it they could be in the semi-finals. We all know what happened last year, with Monaco and Porto making the final, and while there's some 'superpowers' left there are also some teams Liverpool would be favourites against."

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