When former Manchester United hero Dwight Yorke was first mentioned as a possible Sydney FC marquee signing in the brand new A-League six years ago it was met with disbelief by a cynical Australian public – but it came to pass. The same reaction was again shown when former Liverpool legend Robbie Fowler was approached to sign for North Queensland Fury four years later and Fowler is still playing in Australia with Perth Glory. There is now a strong move by the Newcastle Jets to sign United’s Michael Owen for next season – with a thoroughbred racehorse as part of a deal.
The 31 year old striker has struggled to get regular football at Old Trafford since joining from Newcastle United two seasons ago and a move to join his former Liverpool team mate in Australia can not be dismissed out of hand.
According to a report in the respected Sydney Morning Herald newspaper, Jets owner Nathan Tinkler – a mining millionaire and the richest person in Australia under the age of 40, has offered the former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker a cash plus thoroughbred deal, mindful of Owen’s interest in horse racing.
Jets officials were reluctant to comment but did not dismiss the rumours that Owen could be set to join the club “I can definitely say that we have not signed anyone yet” a club source said “the other thing I would say is that we don’t publicly discuss our negotiations but we are always interested in good players. It’s fair to say we have cast a wide net.”
Tinkler has not only recently bought the Newcastle Jets, he has also pumped money into the town’s rugby league club but his first love is horse racing. In the past three years he has outlaid close to $200 million for stud farms, training centres and horses of the bluest blood.
Newcastle mayor John Tate cannot speak highly enough of Tinkler “I don’t know him but the fact he’s been prepared to take the Jets on is important to the city. He’s very supportive of this area, where I believe he made his money, and I’m pleased he’s put so much back.” It’s a line Tinkler has promoted himself. On purchasing the Jets he said “I have no desire to own a football club” but claimed he did so for the community’s benefit.
Australia’s passion for football is vastly underestimated. A crowd of nearly 22,000 was present at a normal league match between Adelaide and Melbourne Victory just last night. A record attendance of 51,000 was in Melbourne a couple of years ago, a figure which all Premier League clubs with the exception of Manchester United and Arsenal would certainly not sneeze at.
A move to the Australian A-League by Michael Owen is certainly not out of the question and before some bitter Liverpool fans who have not yet forgiven their former idol for moving to Old Trafford start taking the piss, they may remember that just like their God, it will be a move that would be envied by many other leading Premier League players – whether or not they have an interest in thoroughbreds.
Will a move to Australia be good for Michael Owen and his family?