£56 million here… £80 million there… this summer has been dominated by the outlandish spending of a select few, with transfer records tumbling at every turn. But one deal that will grab most of the headlines could well be a free transfer.
Michael Owen, labelled a fallen idol, a faded star, even a has-been by the media, looks set to complete a dramatic move to Manchester United.
Just a week ago Owen’s options looked far more limited, he had admitted in an interview with Sky Sports that staying at Newcastle wasn’t an option, but the only two clubs publicly declaring an interest were Stoke and Hull.
Were they serious contenders? I guess we will never know, but as soon as United came in I doubt Owen will have taken long to make his mind up.
Talk has immediately been about Eric Cantona and Teddy Sheringham, two aging players who seemingly had their best years behind them but were inspired by Ferguson at Old Trafford and helped the club to numerous trophies. Similarly the likes of Scholes and Giggs have continued to flourish at the club despite being well into their thirties.
Is Owen another Ferguson masterstroke? Or is it a desperate move in the wake of failed moves for Benzema and Ribery, as well as the departures of Ronaldo and Tevez?
Owen’s form certainly doesn’t make him a prized asset. Without a goal since January he cut a forlorn figure towards the end of last season as his Newcastle side tumbled towards the Championship. His injury record also suggests he would struggle to make it through a full campaign, complete with Champions League matches, unscathed.
That is, of course, an outcome Sir Alex Ferguson seems willing to risk, counter balanced by what he feels he is getting for relatively little outlay.
First off is Owen’s goalscoring record. Despite his injury worries Owen managed 30 goals in 65 starts for Newcastle; even with my poor maths that is nearly one in two. With vast array of creative talent on offer at Old Trafford they have no problem carving out chances. And the one thing that hasn’t diminished with Owen is his finishing ability.
He will no doubt put through a stringent medial, especially on the knee that he damaged at the 2006 World Cup. He will only sign if they are certain he is fit enough. But again he will be joining a number of attacking players in large squad – I doubt he will be forced to play more than three games in a week unless he really has to.
Another factor, and the one that I think persuaded Ferguson to go for Owen, is motivation. Owen will have been hurt by the events of the last six months – I can imagine the Newcastle training ground has not been a happy place to work recently and has hardly encouraged a players best form.
Also given the English media’s penchant building up players only to revel in knocking them down; they have been quick to write Michael Owen off. The former Liverpool man’s determination to prove his critics wrong could be enough to ensure he can re-discover his form.
Add to that the fact that it is a World Cup year. Fabio Capello has shown he will pick players on form and would no doubt relish having a fully fit Michael Owen firing on all cylinders in his squad. A seat on the plane to South Africa could restore the fire in Owen’s belly and Ferguson wants United to benefit from that.
Looking at those reasons the deal suddenly looks like a no brainer. If he fails then he will only cost the club his wages, likely to be largely paid on a performance related basis. If he succeeds, then United will have one of the country’s greatest goal scorers in their ranks for absolutely nothing.
I would be interested to hear United fan’s thought on this issue – is it merely a desperate insurance policy for Ferguson with his transfer shopping list reducing seemingly by the day? Or is it another piece of managerial genius?
If Owen does succeed what will Liverpool fans think? If they had shown an interest I am sure Owen would have made the move back to Anfield. With finances tight at Liverpool should they have made move? Let me know your thoughts.
An Evertonian and a Liverpudlian up front for United – I never thought I would see the day!