Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heskey's Power Can Open the Door for Owen; A Frustrated Real Madrid Striker Will Welcome the Recall of His Anfield Ally for England's Next Two World Cup Qualifiers, Writes Michael Hart

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Heskey's Power Can Open the Door for Owen; A Frustrated Real Madrid Striker Will Welcome the Recall of His Anfield Ally for England's Next Two World Cup Qualifiers, Writes Michael Hart

Article excerpt

Byline: MICHAEL HART

SVEN-GORAN ERIKSSON will take more than his usual interest in the wellbeing of Michael Owen when the England striker arrives from Madrid tonight for the World Cup doubleheader against Northern Ireland and Azerbaijan.

Owen is unchallenged as England's top marksman with 28 goals but there has been a significant dip in his scoring rate since his move to Real Madrid.

Last night he watched much of Real's 1-0 win over Malaga from the bench before eventually being summoned for the last five minutes.

His frustration is evident and his international form has undoubtedly suffered as a result. The former Liverpool striker, eclipsed by Wayne Rooney at Euro 2004, has scored just once in his last six England games.

Despite all that, and the surprise recall for Birmingham's Emile Heskey, he's a certain starter against Northern Ireland at Old Trafford on Saturday and Azerbaijan at St James Park on Wednesday week.

But that situation will not continue indefinitely if Owen is denied regular first team football at club level.

Uncertainty over his future in Spain means that Eriksson will want to monitor carefully the mood and form of one of England's most important players.

He will not be the only one.

Arsenal's Ashley Cole is the latest to join the transfer rumour mill with Steve Gerrard, David Beckham, Owen Hargreaves, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Kieron Dyer.

Weekend speculation linked Owen with Chelsea and Arsenal, both of whom have the financial muscle to tease the 25 year old England marksman from Madrid.

Ironically, he had trials with both before selecting Anfield as a youngster.

Owen would significantly strengthen Arsenal's current attacking line-up though Chelsea's need may not be as urgent. They could outbid any Premiership rivals if they so chose but Jose Mourinho is known to have other transfer targets.

Owen will be pleased to see his former Liverpool team mate Emile Heskey back in the squad after a six month absence. …

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