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Owen injury worse than originally thought

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Apparently he's out for the whole of next season. A 'significant setback', apparently







A reliable one.

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Owen injury nightmare rocks club and country


From George Caulkin and Matt Dickinson, in Baden-Baden



MICHAEL OWEN is expected to miss the whole of next season after a setback in his recovery from the knee injury he sustained at the World Cup finals. The Newcastle United striker had hoped to return early next year, but he will now be out for at least ten months.


It is a huge blow to the forward, to England and to his club, who paid a club-record fee of £16 million to sign him from Real Madrid last summer. He made only 11 appearances last season after fracturing his metatarsal and is unlikely to play at all in the forthcoming campaign after the main operation to repair his right knee was delayed by eight weeks.


Glenn Roeder, the Newcastle manager, has been left badly short of strikers and Steve McClaren will have to plan without England’s pre-eminent goalscorer. The new head coach is also awaiting Fifa’s verdict on Wayne Rooney’s suspension, with the world governing body due to announce by Sunday how many matches Rooney will miss at the start of the Euro 2008 qualifying campaign.



Rooney has protested that he did not intend to stamp on Ricardo Carvalho during England’s defeat by Portugal in the World Cup quarter-final, but Fifa’s view of that incident was made abundantly clear yesterday when Horacio Elizondo, the Argentine referee who sent off Rooney, was given the honour of officiating at Sunday’s final between Italy and France in Berlin.


Markus Merk, the German, and Lubos Michel, of Slovakia, had been favourites, but Elizondo’s handling of the England game clearly impressed Fifa. His decision to dismiss Rooney has been publicly backed by Sepp Blatter, the Fifa president, and the forward faces a ban of two or three matches.


At least Rooney will be back in England colours a long time before Owen. He flew to Denver on Monday to see Dr Richard Steadman, the surgeon who has operated on the knees of top sportsmen across many fields, including Ronaldo, Greg Norman and Joe Montana. Owen was expected to undergo an operation to repair the right anterior cruciate ligament, which ruptured less than a minute into England’s 2-2 draw against Sweden, but surgery on Wednesday revealed damage to the lateral cartilages.


With work on those required to be carried out first, the cruciate operation will be delayed for two months. Owen, 26, will return to Newcastle next week to continue his rehabilitation and will have to return to the US for more surgery at the start of August.


Newcastle’s season kicks off with an Intertoto Cup tie in just eight days’ time and Roeder will not be spoilt for choice of strikers after Alan Shearer’s retirement and Owen’s injury. Unless he can make a quick purchase he has only Albert Luque, James Milner and a semi-fit Shola Ameobi at his disposal.


Interest in Dirk Kuyt, of Feyenoord, is thought to have cooled, while Newcastle have been warned off an approach for Darren Bent, of Charlton Athletic. Ruud van Nistelrooy, unsettled at Old Trafford, and Jermain Defoe, who is not guaranteed a starting place at Tottenham Hotspur, are targets, but Roeder does not have a sufficient budget.


Upset at losing his most precious asset to an injury sustained on international duty, Freddy Shepherd, the Newcastle chairman, had already instructed the club’s lawyers to investigate the matter of compensation. Owen earns in excess of £100,000 a week and the Football Association’s insurance policy covers only a proportion of the player’s wages.


The club, who made their own additional insurance arrangements, are examining their legal position, but Fifa has indicated that its £6 million compensation fund is intended to provide for players whose associations or clubs have not taken out a policy.

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