Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Only the Cream of the Crop Would Do

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Only the Cream of the Crop Would Do

Article excerpt

Byline: By Stuart Rayner

New signing Michael Owen was by no means the only big-name striker on Graeme Souness' shopping list this summer. Stuart Rayner reports

When Graeme Souness pulled off the remarkable signing of Michael Owen he told the media: "There really are only a handful of people playing in the world today who can fill Alan Shearer's shirt and we've got one."

But it is becoming clear the Scotsman was not short of high-quality alternatives lined up had the deal fallen through.

First, news leaked of the club's pounds 25.9m bid for Atltico Madrid's Fernando Torres and now Benni McCarthy says he too was contacted about a move to St James's Park.

One thing Souness and Freddie Shepherd cannot be derided for is a lack of ambition.

Souness revealed his chairman had "shaken his head in disbelief" when presented with the name of his top summer target but Shepherd dug deep to find the cash and landed his man.

The bid for Torres was perhaps even more unbelievable and when McCarthy's name is also added to a list of transfer targets which included Fenerbahe's Nicolas Anelka and Middlesbrough's Mark Viduka it is clear the Magpies were determined to make good on their promise to Shearer, made last April, that they would find him a top-quality strike partner.

South African striker McCarthy has long been linked to a move to the Premiership, with Middlesbrough and Aston Villa's names cropping up more than most. In the end he nearly signed for West Ham United, passing a medical on transfer deadline day only for his current club, Porto, to get cold feet and pull the plug on a pounds 6m deal.

That the newly-promoted Hammers were his most likely destination may not sound like a glowing recommendation, but McCarthy's admission that former manager Jose Mourinho expressed an interest certainly is.

"Newcastle United, Aston Villa, Chelsea and Blackburn Rovers have also shown huge interest in me and I don't know why the club (Porto) won't release me," said a disgruntled McCarthy this week. …

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