Soccer star Michael Owen today accepted a public apology and substantial undisclosed damages over "incredulous allegations" that his football career was over.
The Newcastle United and England striker was not at London's High Court for the settlement of his libel action over a story in the Daily Express last month.
Owen's solicitor, John Kelly, told Mr Justice Eady that it falsely alleged that Premier League clubs did not want to sign him and, as a result of a lack of interest, he was on the verge of retiring from professional football at the end of the season.
Mr Kelly said: "These incredulous allegations are entirely without foundation and were obviously extremely distressing, hurtful and damaging to the claimant."
Ian Helme, counsel for Express Newspapers, which has agreed to pay damages and Owen's legal costs, accepted that the allegations were false and without foundation and apologised for the distress, embarrassment and offence caused.
Mr Kelly said that the back page article, entitled "Unwanted Toon striker at a cross roads, Finished at 29?", was accompanied by another headed "Owen ready for sad finale".
The player's distress was aggravated by the fact that the article was published on the eve of an important game in which his club was fighting to avoid relegation and just two weeks before the Premier League transfer window was due to open.
He said that the allegations were not put to Owen or his representatives before publication, or they would have been advised of their utter falsity.
Once they became aware that it had appeared in the first edition, they contacted the newspaper's lawyers, and the article was replaced with one entitled "Owen: I'm not finished".
"Despite this change, the damage to the claimant's reputation had been done, especially as the first edition of the newspaper was published in Newcastle.
"The article has resulted in significant speculation as to the claimant's intentions at the end of the season."
Afterwards, a spokesman for Owen said: "Michael is delighted to have won his case and to have set the record straight.
"He would have preferred not to take action, but had no alternative in this case.
"Michael is pleased that this matter has now been resolved and he can put it behind him."
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