As Juventus, Internazionale and Manchester United have discovered, Real Madrid have a habit of getting their man, but Gérard Houllier yesterday professed himself unconcerned at rumours linking the Spanish champions with Michael Owen.
Real were reported to be preparing a £25m bid for Owen, whose contract is nearing its last 18 months. This is the mark at which clubs start to fear a player will allow their contract to run down and, like Steve McManaman, leave for free. Unlike team-mates Steven Gerrard, Chris Kirkland and Danny Murphy, the 23-year-old has yet to suggest he will commit to a new deal.
However, Houllier, speaking after Liverpool's 2-1 win at Fulham, said: "I'm sure we will find an agreement. We want to keep him. We love him in Liverpool and he is keen to stay. Real have not been in touch and if they were we would not even consider £52m. There is no deadline for Michael to sign. He will not be a Steve McManaman.
"The main words are 'trust' and 'care'. I'm convinced he wants to stay. Liverpool have looked after Michael from an early age. Players look at the club, its vision, environment, quality of facilities and staff. We'll find a solution."
His Fulham counterpart, Chris Coleman, was more sanguine about rumours linking Louis Saha with Manchester United. "We're Fulham. We're a good club but if Manchester United want to pay the money and take our players that will happen. But Manchester United have not been in touch and Louis has indicated he wants to sign a new contract here."
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