New 'improved' deal may not suit Owen

Reacting to reports in Sunday newspapers, Newcastle United yesterday released a statement saying that they have offered Michael Owen a new and improved three-year contract. On the surface, it is a development that manager Kevin Keegan has been waiting for since April, when he raised the issue.

But Owen has not agreed to the deal and it remains to be seen whether the 28-year-old and his advisors will be impressed with the public nature of Newcastle's policy. It is also understood that Owen's basic pay, believed to be £115,000 per week, is being reduced and that the "increased salary" referred to is dependent on appearances, goals scored and other factors.

Many Newcastle fans would agree that this is a sensible offer given Owen's history of injury since arriving at St James' Park in 2005. Owen completed his first 90 minutes of the season on Saturday at Arsenal after recovering from his latest knock, a calf strain. But Owen could point out that he was still Newcastle's top scorer last season and that five of his 11 League goals were decisive and brought eight points. Without those goals Newcastle would have been relegated.

Owen will be free to speak to other clubs in January if he does not sign the new contract and having sold James Milner to Aston Villa on Friday, Newcastle need to recruit rather than lose another player. They are linked with the Wigan midfielder Olivier Kapo, though a proposed transfer ran into trouble on Saturday night and there were reports in Spain last night that a one-year loan deal had been agreed for 26-year-old Valencia midfielder Ignacio Gonzalez.