» Sports » Owen the likely loser as Real opt for Brazil duo

Owen the likely loser as Real opt for Brazil duo

By Simon Baskett
July 30, 2005 21:25 IST
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Real Madrid fans will be delighted at the prospect of seeing new recruits Robinho and Julio Baptista join Ronaldo in a spectacular all-Brazilian front line at the Bernabeu next season.

The arrival of the two youngsters, however, is almost certain to spell the end of Michael Owen's brief sojourn in Spain and raises serious question marks over the future of more established players like Raul and Guti.

Alongside World Cup winner Ronaldo, Spanish captain Raul, former European Footballer of the Year Owen and ex-Sevilla favourite Baptista, the talented 21-year-old Robinho will become the fifth striker on Real's books.

Baptista began his career at Sao Paulo as a defensive midfielder but was transformed into a rampaging forward after joining Sevilla in 2003.

Quickly christened 'the Beast' by the fans, Baptista racked up 50 goals in two seasons to fire the Andalucians to their best league finishes in almost a decade.

No matter what tactical permutations are used it is clear there is little space for Owen in the new Real line-up.

Baptista is likely to occupy the 'media punta' position behind the front two or drop a little deeper into an attacking midfield role.


The presence of the two new Brazilians means Owen and Raul are likely to be reduced to bit-part players who could even be eclipsed altogether.

The implications for the rest of the team are no less complex.

England captain David Beckham is guaranteed a berth on the right flank but, even with Luis Figo almost certain to leave for Inter Milan in the next few days, Real still have a severe over-manning problem in midfield.

If Baptista does not play behind the front two, he will be scrapping it out with Zinedine Zidane, Thomas Gravesen, Pablo Garcia and

Guti for two remaining places in midfield.

More than anyone else, though, it is expected to be Owen who will feel under pressure to quit Real.

Robinho's fantasy dribbling, dizzying stepovers and irreverent approach are more in tune with Real's commitment to providing spectacle and entertainment than Owen's more understated yet clinical finishing skills.

Even though he did more than enough to prove himself last season, the former Liverpool striker has never been granted the full Galactico status of his predecessors.

After spending much of last season trying to carve out a place in the starting line-up, Owen will again find himself relegated to the role of super-sub if he stays.

In normal circumstances he might be prepared to stick it out but in a World Cup year he will be worried about not getting enough games to keep his place as England's first-choice striker.


A return to England may also prove problematic.

After the 25-year-old's fine performances last season, Real will be hoping to make a handsome profit on the eight million pounds ($14.04 million) they paid for him last August and there are few clubs that could afford his transfer fee and salary.

Owen is likely to want Champions League football next season, reducing his options still further.

Chelsea appear to have their sights trained on Olympique Lyon midfielder Michael Essien, Manchester United already have a surfeit of strikers on their books, Liverpool have spent seven million pounds on Peter Crouch and a move to Everton seems out of the question.

Arsenal have 20 million euros ($24.20 million) in the bank after the sale of Patrick Vieira to Juventus but the Londoners are yet to express any clear interest in the striker.

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Simon Baskett
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