Newcastle 'move in for Beckham' as Owen faces year out

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Newcastle United were last night linked with a summer move for David Beckham, after it emerged that Magpies chairman Freddy Shepherd met the former England captain at a London hotel yesterday.

Beckham held talks with Shepherd on the day Newcastle learned they will be without striker Michael Owen for up to 12 months ­ a shattering blow for Steve McClaren, whose new England regime officially begins on 1 August.

The return of former Manchester United midfielder Beckham to English football would represent a major coup for Newcastle, who want him to wear the No7 jersey made famous at St James' Park by the likes of Kevin Keegan.

Newcastle are said to be willing to put together a £120,000-a-week package to bring him back from Spain. New Madrid coach Fabio Capello wants Beckham to stay but Newcastle are desperate to sign a high-profile player, especially after more bad news about Owen yesterday.

McClaren's problems are already mounting up. The announcement on Wayne Rooney's international ban was delayed yesterday but it was the developments around Owen that proved more serious, with fears he may be out for up to a year.

The 26-year-old has been to see the Colorado specialist Dr Richard Steadman, who helped to rebuild the career of Alan Shearer after he suffered cruciate ligament damage.

However, Owen's first examination identified other complications. The examination revealed lateral cartilage damage which had to be repaired before the player's ruptured anterior cruciate ligament and Owen will now have to return to America after a further eight weeks for a second operation. Owen may not now have his cruciate ligament operated on until the end of next month, meaning he could be out well into 2007.

McClaren's England play four of their Euro 2008 qualifiers between 2 September and 11 October and there are three more matches in the second half of the season. With the possibility of a five-match ban hanging over Rooney, the new manager's striking options could be severely limited. It means if the 16 August friendly goes ahead, against Greece or an alternative side, McClaren is likely to recall Jermain Defoe.