The new Geordie legend... but for how long?


Last updated at 09:36 31 August 2005

Newcastle will unveil Michael Owen as their new folk hero today - but the England striker can quit Tyneside after just one season if he is unhappy.

Chairman Freddy Shepherd paid Real Madrid a club record £17million, but also offered an £80,000-a-week deal containing numerous conditions. Owen can leave the club even if Newcastle cannot recoup their outlay. He has a right to expect European football.

Graeme Souness's immediate future as manager is safe and Alan Shearer is being groomed as his successor.

Shearer even offered to give up his No 9 shirt to Owen to entice him to St James' Park, although the offer was not taken up.

Shepherd said: "Bringing Michael to St James' Park will rank alongside the signing of Alan Shearer as my proudest moment at Newcastle United. When he gave me the decision it was one of the best moments of my life.

"Newcastle fans love centre forwards and Michael is a fantastic goalscorer."

Shepherd was still busy in the transfer market last night. As well as finally offloading Jermaine Jenas to Tottenham for £8m, he was hoping to thwart Liverpool for a second time this week and re-sign Nolberto Solano from Aston Villa for £3.5m.

Liverpool were forced to accept defeat in the race for Owen after he flatly refused to take a gamble on his World Cup dream.

With manager Rafa Benitez reluctant to sanction any increase on the club's £8m offer - the sum that took the 25-year old to Real Madrid 12 months ago - Anfield officials were looking for signs of Owen's commitment to Liverpool.

They believed he might tell Real he was interested only in rejoining his old club, but it quickly became clear that Owen's priority was guaranteed first team football for the sake of his World Cup ambitions.

He was worried that Real might call his bluff if he turned down Newcastle's offer and leave him on the bench at the Bernabeu. Among the guarantees made to Owen were assurances about the Newcastle futures of Souness and Shearer despite the club's poor start to the new campaign which sees them second bottom with no goals from their opening four games.

Souness said: "Michael's first choice was Liverpool and he had a real dilemma there. I am pleased to say we got in front of him and Newcastle sold itself.

"I am absolutely thrilled at the prospect of Michael joining us because we have signed the current England centre forward. It is absolutely fantastic news for the club because he's one of the best strikers in the world. His goalscoring record backs that up.

"Whoever we have gone out to sign has jumped at the chance of joining us at St James' Park and Michael was no different but we always knew that Liverpool was his first choice because he had an emotional bond to Anfield that went back to when he joined the club when he was just 12 years old. That was what we were competing against."

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