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Tuesday January 06 2004

Michael Owen's agent Jonathan Holmes has once again cast doubt over the striker's long-term future at Liverpool.

Owen, 24, has less than 18 months left on his contract at Anfield and has been the subject of repeated transfer rumours in recent months.

Real Madrid and Chelsea have both been linked with a move for the England forward, who has reportedly become frustrated with Liverpool's lack of success and Holmes once again added fuel to the fire by telling The Daily Telegraph: "Champions League football is very important to Michael. A crucial five months await Liverpool. For them not to qualify for the Champions League two years on the trot would have severe economic repercussions."

He added: "Michael is now 24 and he is moving into his prime. He needs to be playing at the very highest level of club football."

- From Football365
 

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Agents usually like to do it, I don't think we need to take a lot from what he said.

Having said that, if we don't qualify for the Champions League then it will be a disaster and in that case someone has to go, and that better not be Owen or Gerrard, or any of our leading players....
 

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Houllier's response from Football365:

Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier came out fighting on Tuesday after his mauling from shareholders at the club's annual general meeting.

The Frenchman insists the club are only out of the Champions League places because of Michael Owen's long-term injury and is confident they can put their indifferent Premiership form behind them.

Houllier, who also pleaded with chairman David Moores to maintain his involvement at Anfield, has however clearly been angered by remarks from Owen's advisors suggesting the England striker may leave the club if they do not achieve Champions League qualification. Houllier believes the club would be a lot closer to that position had his star striker not been out and is confident he will stay, even telling shareholders "Michael Owen will sign a new contract this year."

The chairman of Owen's advisors SFX, Jon Holmes, has however said: "Champions League football is very important to Michael. A crucial five months await Liverpool. For them not to qualify for the Champions League two years on the trot would have severe economic repercussions. Michael is now 24 and he is moving into his prime. He needs to be playing at the very highest level of club football."

Such comments on the eve of a crunch Premiership game at Chelsea have not pleased Houllier, who was also confronted with shareholders also demanding Champions League football on Monday.

Houllier responded to Holmes by saying: "If we do not reach a Champions League place, the absence of Michael Owen will have played a part. He has not been playing for three months. So when the agent says that we have to play in the Champions League he should consider the fact that maybe if we had been more lucky with Michael and he had not been injured, we would be in the Champions League spot."

Houllier is particularly irritated because Owen considers Tony Stephens to be his agent, the man who has worked with him for years and is now part-time with SFX.

Stephens has been away on a lengthy break now for several weeks, hence the delay in further contract talks, and both Houllier and the club seem happy to wait to deal with Stephens.

The remarks on Monday have even prompted reports that Owen may consider breaking his ties with SFX after the current contract has been negotiated, as has David Beckham.
 
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