On this day in 2004, Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez confirmed that Michael Owen would sign for Real Madrid.
Owen, who emerged from the Anfield ranks as a precocious 17-year-old and established himself on the biggest stage of them all as a teenager during England’s 1998 World Cup campaign, had been sought after by the Spaniards for some time and they eventually pursued their interest at home.
Just weeks after Benitez arrived from Valencia to replace Gerard Houllier as manager, Real snatched Owen from the Reds in exchange for around £8m and winger Antonio Nunez, reuniting him with international team-mate David Beckham, who is in the lead had taken over to the Bernabeu last summer.
The player’s departure, which sparked vehemently disputed speculation that the club’s new Spanish boss would be rid of the English contingent he had inherited as Danny Murphy had already left for Charlton, came after he had completed the final year of his contract with the Reds half of Merseyside had agreed without a new deal.
Benitez said at the time: “It was impossible to control the situation. It was bad for us, but in the end it was impossible. He’ll sign a contract with a good team at Real Madrid and we have to use that money to balance the team.
“We were very happy with Michael, we wanted Michael here for many years, but a long time had passed without signing a new contract. Last year Real Madrid tried to sign the player and now they have succeeded.”
Owen made his La Liga debut in a 1-0 win at Real Mallorca and scored the first of his 16 goals, a Champions League winner, against Dynamo Kyiv.
However, his stint in Spain only lasted a single season and, feeling adamant against a speedy return from Newcastle, Liverpool made his way to Tyneside in August 2005 when the Magpies signed a record £16m and an ultimately unsuccessful one endured a four-year tenure in the North East that culminated in relegation from the Premier League in 2009.
In contrast, the Reds, bolstered by the additions of Xabi Alonso and Luis Garcia, had continued to grow in Owen’s absence.
On 25 May 2005, Benitez led the club to a remarkable victory in the Champions League final over AC Milan, where they were 3-0 down at half-time in Istanbul, with Alonso being one of the goalscorers.
https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/rafael-benitez-michael-owen-real-madrid-liverpool-spanish-b2144381.html On this day in 2004: Real Madrid are making a substitution for Liverpool striker Michael Owen