Fergie may offer sidelined Owen an escape tunnel

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The Independent Online

Robinho's imminent arrival at Real Madrid could signal Michael Owen's return to the Premiership, and his destination could be Manchester United, who need another goalscorer in their squad.

Real have not suggested yet that pressure will be put on any of their current strikers to leave, but with the Brazilian coming in they may well be happy to say farewell to any one of them who considers that his need for regular first-team football in the run-up to next year's World Cup finals in Germany dictates that he must move on.

United have not sparkled pre-season and Sir Alex Ferguson, their manager, might want to link Owen with England colleague Wayne Rooney.

It is unlikely that Owen would be offered the chance to return to Anfield. Liverpool's manager, Rafael Benitez, wants to add to his squad but he told the club's website that he was "looking for a centre-back and a right winger".

The winger could yet be Luis Figo, as the Spaniard has not yet given up hope of prising the Portuguese wide player away from Real Madrid. His chance of doing so may even have improved.

Figo's future at the Bernabeu may have been similarly jeopardised by the arrival of another Brazilian, the Arsenal target Julio Baptista.

Benitez needs a squad that is capable of coping with a long hard season. Having had to start their Champions' League defence at the earliest possible stage, and weeks before thet start of the Premiership campaign, they also have to cope with the Fifa Club World Championship. In Tokyo yesterday, they were drawn against either FC Sydney or Costa Rica's Deportivo Saprissa in their opening match in that tournament in December.

Milan Baros is on his way out Anfield, probably to Schalke. The Czech international striker has agreed personal terms, but no fee has been discussed.

Talk last week was of Liverpool possibly facing Everton for a place in the Champions' League group stage. In fact they will play either CSKA Sofia or Tirana, but now they might wish otherwise. Everton, who were drawn against Villarreal, played a friendly against Fenerbahce in Istanbul yesterday and lost 5-0.

David Moyes' side defended poorly and were put on the back foot early on by the Turkish side's Brazilian midfield schemer Alex.

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