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Rock-bottom Japan club woo England´s Owen

SoccerNews in General Soccer News 13 May 2008

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Rock-bottom J-League club JEF United Chiba are making ambitious moves to sign England striker Michael Owen, a newspaper said Tuesday.

The Nikkan Sports daily, quoting unnamed J-League sources, said the Japanese club has contacted agents for the former European player of the year, whose contract runs out after next season.

A Chiba official would not confirm or deny the report.

“We have always been researching players abroad, but I have no particular information about Owen as reported in the daily,” said the official, Masahiko Mikami.

Owen’s negotiations with Newcastle have reportedly stalled, while other clubs, including Manchester United, have shown strong interest in signing the ex-Liverpool and Real Madrid star.

Owen signed a four-year contract with Newcastle in 2005 put at more than 15 million pounds (29.4 million dollars).

He has been plagued by injuries at Newcastle but has thrived since the return this year of manager Kevin Keegan, who last month voiced confidence the striker would sign a new deal.

At JEF United Chiba, the 28-year-old would rejoin Liverpool first-team coach Alex Miller, who was named the club’s new manager earlier this month.

The club, owned by East Japan Railway Co., hired Miller after sacking Croatian Josip Kuze just four months into his appointment.

JEF United Chiba, based in the Tokyo suburb of Ichihara, are last in the J-League standings with one win and nine defeats with two draws.

If Owen moves to Japan, he would be following in the footsteps of England marksman Gary Lineker, who spent two seasons with Nagoya Grampus Eight in the early 1990s.

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