Owen set to leave Newcastle

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The Independent Football

Michael Owen has confirmed he will leave Newcastle when his contract expires at the end of the month.

The 29-year-old, who rejected a new deal at St James' Park at the turn of the year, is to end his stay on Tyneside four years after making a club record £17million switch from Real Madrid.

Owen's decision comes as no surprise as the Magpies attempt to slash their wage bill in the wake of a disastrous relegation from the Barclays Premier League.

His availability has been made known to a series of clubs both at home and abroad by his representatives in recent weeks, and he has admitted he is looking to stay in the Premier League, or to play at a comparative level in another country.

Owen told Sky Sports News: "I'm still obviously contracted to Newcastle. I've still got weeks, a month or whatever left, I'm not sure, so that's where I am at the minute.

"I don't think I'm going to be re-signing at Newcastle. I don't think they are going to offer me a contract and I would prefer to play in the Premier League or a top division somewhere else.

"I'm still a Newcastle player, but I think it will only be for a matter of weeks.

"There are plenty of clubs who would interest me, but we will see where that is, whether that's home or abroad.

"There has been a lot of interest from abroad, and quite a bit from at home as well.

"Obviously, the Premier League is where I feel I belong. I played a year out in Spain and enjoyed it at Real Madrid, but it definitely confirmed to me that I prefer the Premier League.

"So if it was to be a good English club, that would be my preference, but I have had quite a lot of interest from abroad, so I wouldn't rule that out."

Owen's capture was hailed as a coup back in August 2005 when then chairman Freddy Shepherd, with the help of skipper Alan Shearer, managed to persuade the England striker to return home in an effort to keep himself in the frame for the 2006 World Cup finals.

However, a succession of injuries, including the fractured metatarsal which almost denied him his trip to Germany and the ligament damage which ended it prematurely, have limited him to just 79 appearances.

Those 79 appearances, 65 of which were starts, brought him 30 goals, 10 of them last season.

However, his last strike came on January 10 in a 2-2 draw with West Ham and the man the club hoped would help bring them silverware was ultimately unable to keep them in the top flight.

Owen has been linked with a series of potential purchasers since it became apparent that his future did not lie on Tyneside, with Everton and Hull among those to have been mentioned most prominently.

Tigers boss Phil Brown has confirmed his interest in the striker, but has insisted no offer has been made, and Owen admits he is not aware of an approach from the Humberside club.

He said: "I haven't been made aware of that. That's quite a new one.

"I suppose I have been linked to virtually every team over the last few months. But I will sit down over the next couple of weeks.

"I don't think it's quite fair to Newcastle [to talk about possible destinations]. As I said, I can't see me staying at Newcastle.

"I have had four enjoyable years and I'm very sorry, obviously, to leave them when they are going to be in Championship, so I wouldn't like to be talking about specific clubs I could be joining while I'm still a Newcastle player."

Owen has found himself at the centre of an ongoing debate over his ability to cut it at the highest level after losing his place in the England squad as Newcastle's fortunes have dwindled.

However, he insists he can cope with the criticism.

He said: "I suppose I have got skin thicker than 99.9% of the population, so I have got used to it.

"I don't know why I should get used to it, but I suppose I have.

"People write you off - but when I scored a goal in the World Cup as an 18-year-old, people six months later were writing me off saying, 'It's a one-off'.

"Then you score a hat-trick against Germany in Munich and win five trophies in a year with Liverpool and a year later, they will write you off.

"I will come back, I will play well and score goals and do all these things once more.

"Everyone will keep quiet for six months, and then I will have two or three bad games and they will say, 'He's about to turn 30, his legs are going'.

"There will be something, there always is - this country is renowned for it. Someone will always criticise you, no matter what.

"If I let that affect me, I would never be where I am today. Yes, I would prefer people to say nice things about me because it's not like I've murdered anyone or something."