Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Owen Must Earn New Deal - Sam; 'Star Needs to Reach 20 Games First'

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Football: Owen Must Earn New Deal - Sam; 'Star Needs to Reach 20 Games First'

Article excerpt

Byline: Luke Edwards

NEWCASTLE United chairman Chris Mort has denied there is a pounds 6m get-out clause in Michael Owen's contract - but boss Sam Allardyce has admitted he is more worried about the player's fitness than his long-term future at the club.

There has been widespread speculation that clubs wishing to lure Owen (pictured left) away from St James's Park next summer would only have to pay pounds 6m because of a clause negotiated when the striker moved to Tyneside for pounds 17m from Real Madrid in 2005.

But although Mort admitted clauses had existed for the last two summers, he is adamant United's star player cannot go anywhere on the cheap as he hinted new contract talks could begin later this season.

However, although Allardyce would like to keep the England international - who will line up against Russia in Moscow tonight - at the club, he would like to see Newcastle's record signing play more than 20 consecutive games before any talks begin about a new deal.

"There is no friction with him," said Allardyce, who revealed he has spoken to the forward since England's 3-0 win over Estonia to discuss his fitness. "I'd like to see him fit for the next 20 games on the trot or more and then enter into (talks about) a new contract. That's the most important thing, that he's available for selection every week and we can control it.

"Whether that means we lose him at the end of the day or not is non-negotiable because if it happens, it happens, but we want to see him fit, playing and scoring on a regular basis. It's clear before I got here in the summer that the clause of pounds 9m was made public, but it never happened and now it's about keeping Michael fit for what's going to be a really tough December for us.

"(If) Michael (is) fit and scoring goals every week, all managers would want him in their side. If they can come up with the money, a player like Michael Owen commands you'd move for him, if he's availa ble."

Allardyce knows that the likelihood of receiving a bid for Owen will increase if the player proves he is finally back to full fitness after two years of injury troubles. …

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