FOOTBALLAl Shabab play down Owen talks
UAE not the market for veteran former England striker, says Shabab chief
Dubai: Al Shabab have played down hopes of former England striker Michael Owen making a shock move to the club, branding Tuesday night’s meeting with the player’s agent “a general talk with no obligations”.
Free agent Owen, 32, has been released by Manchester United and had been strongly tipped to join their Premier League rivals Stoke City. But the player’s agent arrived in Dubai on Sunday for surprise talks at the Maktoum Bin Rashid Stadium.
During a 16-year playing career that has also seen him represent Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle United, Owen has built a strong affinity with the Middle East through his interests in horseracing and property.
But this is unlikely to guarantee him a slot in Al Shabab’s foreign quartet next season, according to vice-president Khalid Bu Humaid.
“There have been some talks and his agent is coming to Shabab Club tonight [Tuesday] but there is nothing to confirm with regard to him signing or not,” said Bu Humaid, whose Mamza outfit finished fourth last season.
“This is a general talk with no obligations. When someone calls us we listen to what they have to say and see what they have to offer. But this part of the world is not the market for Michael Owen any more.”
Bu Humaid added: “Michael Owen is on the downhill right now. He’s not one of our options. He’s 32 and he only played a handful of matches last season. We’ll listen to what his agent has to say and report that back to the coach [Marcos Paqueta], who is currently in Brazil.
“Our league is not as it used to be. It is getting stronger by the day. Other clubs may be interested in the likes of Fabio Cannavaro, David Trezeguet and Luca Toni, but them coming here at the end of their careers hasn’t worked.”
Asked if Owen’s name alone carried with it a marketing incentive for the club, Bu Humaid said: “It’s true people like Diego Maradona have brought a lot of noise [to the UAE], but he didn’t even take Al Wasl to Garhoud Bridge.”