Owen makes overtures to four clubs over transfer

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The Independent Football

Owen, and his agents, SFX, took the unusual step yesterday of issuing a statement in which the player confirmed that contact had been made with four clubs with the permission of Real about the possibility of a transfer now that he finds himself fifth-choice striker at the Bernabeu. Of those clubs only Newcastle have communicated a desire to sign the player, while Chelsea did not even enter into discussions.

Owen, 25, is not understood to have any interest in a move to Newcastle and there was little encouragement from David Gill, the Manchester United chief executive, when he met the agent Tony Stephens yesterday. Stephens had come to Old Trafford to discuss separate work being undertaken for the club by SFX and only spoke briefly about the possibility of Owen coming to United.

The statement from Owen was released just after Real trained yesterday before they embark on a two-week camp in Austria. It will be his first experience of playing with new arrivals Julio Baptista and Robinho, whose combined fees of around £30m havepushed him back down the order behind Raul and Ronaldo as well.

Owen said: "During my four days off, there have been two big signings confirmed by the club and I can understand why this has resulted in speculation about my future. Real Madrid contacted my advisers over the weekend and explained that they wanted me to stay but that they would not stand in my way if the right opportunity arose for me to return to the Premiership.

"With the knowledge of Real Madrid, there has been brief dialogue with three or four Premiership clubs, although no formal negotiations have taken place."

While United are still uncertain about finances under the Glazers, the striker's manager at international level, Sven Goran Eriksson, would have no complaints if Owen were to move to Old Trafford. "For him to work every day with Wayne Rooney can only make England better," Eriksson said.

The question of money for an offer for Owen is also an issue for Arsenal, who have been equally uncommitted. One club who have ruled themselves are Liverpool, who sold him to Real last summer. Lyon announced yesterday they would also be interested in Owen. Gérard Houllier, the manager, knows Owen well.

Jonathan Woodgate will play in the tour of Austria after 16 months out of football with a thigh injury.

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