Owen left in limbo as Newcastle agree fee

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His comments followed a remarkable statement from Owen earlier in the day, when the 25-year-old reluctantly admitted that he would join Newcastle only on a one-year loan deal in a bid to save his England World Cup place, despite Real Madrid having agreed a fee for a permanent transfer with the Tyneside club.

Owen made clear that his first choice was Liverpool but as of last night the Anfield club were yet to make any indication that they would bid for the player.

Souness said: "As I understand it there is not a chance of a loan deal. The fact is we have made a whacking big offer for him and it has been accepted so a loan is not an option.

Souness also revealed that the club requires a swift answer from Owen in order to move on to alternative signings if the England man declines the offer. He said: "The deadline is Wednesday, whether we can wait that long I'm not sure, that's up to the chairman.

"All I can tell you is we made a club record offer that has been accepted by Real Madrid and it is now up to the player and advisors to say yes or no."

Those at Anfield supporting a move for Owen are the chairman David Moores, chief executive Rick Parry and the English players. As far as the manager Rafael Benitez is concerned he had still not sanctioned a bid yesterday after re-affirming his position following the Champions' League qualifier against CSKA Sofia that he had other priorities in the transfer market.

Benitez has sought another central defender and right-sided midfielder all summer and has told the club that their acquisition ranks above that of Owen.

It is understood that if Liverpool are to intervene in the Owen transfer saga they will do so only after the Super Cup match against CSKA Moscow in Monaco tomorrow and then only on the understanding that they have filled those other two positions.

Last night they appeared to be close to completing the transfer of Stelios Giannakopoulos from Bolton Wanderers, but reports in Portugal yesterday claimed that Benfica had rejected Liverpool's £6m bid for the Brazilian centre-back Luisao.

As time runs out for Owen, and a place on the Madrid bench looks ever more likely, Owen's statement said "that my ideal situation was to start the season in the Real Madrid first team and if not I would prefer to return to Liverpool.

"The president [Florentino Perez] understood me and said he would try to help me achieve this. If the transfer cannot be finalised in time I have agreed to go to Newcastle United, but only on a one-year loan. I need to be playing regularly in World Cup year."

There is still confusion about how much Real still owe Liverpool from the deal to buy Owen last summer, although it is not understood to be any more than around £4m. With the £6.5m raised from the sale of Milan Baros to Aston Villa this week, Liverpool have some funds to fill the two positions that Benitez regards as so crucial.

Whether they would then be able to raise the money to buy back Owen will be the most serious question facing the Liverpool board with no prospect, it is understood, of chairman David Moores using his personal fortune to fund the deal. The club are also acutely aware that Benitez is not a man who stands for interference in transfers: it was that which proved the breakdown in his relationship with Valencia last year.

With four strikers at Liverpool already ­ Fernando Morientes, Djibril Cissé, Peter Crouch and Florent Sinama-Pongolle ­ Benitez already has some choice, although none who have yet convinced they are a better option than Owen. Cissé, who wants to stay at the club, has admitted he would "not be surprised if the manager says I have to go".

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