England striker Michael
Owen was handed the number 11 shirt for his new club by none other than
Real Madrid legend Alfredo Di Stefano after being officially unveiled to
the press at the Santiago Bernabeu stadium.
The 24-year-old Owen, who came through a medical late on Friday, will
soon begin the first days of a five-year contract with the Spanish
giants and nine-times European champions who signed him from Liverpool
Owen joined Real for a fee believed to be in the region of eight million
pounds (12 million euros) with 25-year-old Real midfielder Antonio Nunez
moving to Anfield as a makeweight.
Although Owen will join up with England teammate David Beckham in the
Spanish capital, it was Real's past stars - Di Stefano, an honorary
president, and Ferenc Puskas - who have whet his appetite for the world
"My dad has been telling me about the great Madrid team of the 1960's.
He says Di Stefano and Puskas, two strikers who were just unbelievable,"
said Owen who opened and closed his conference saying hello and goodbye
"He also says, Gento was the quickest number 11 he has ever seen. And
today I am so proud to be wearing this number 11 again.
"I'd like to thank everyone for making me so welcome here in Madrid.
It's been a really nice couple of days. I'd like to say a special thank
you to 'Senor' president (of Real Madrid, Florentino Perez) for giving
me the opportunity to play for the most ... the best team in the world.
Perez, who when he arrived at the club a few years ago said he would buy
at least one world class player every season, said Owen's capture came
down to his qualities both on and off the field.
"We have signed Owen not just because he was one of the youngest ever
winners of the European footballer of the year award but because he
wanted to play for Real, and because he sets a good example both on and
off the field," said Perez.
Owen's departure from Liverpool, with whom he has spent his entire
professional career, comes weeks after the arrival of manager Rafael
Benitez, the former Valencia boss who replaced Gerard Houllier earlier
this summer, said he had wanted Owen to stay but had been powerless to
prevent the striker from leaving because he only had a year left on his
"When I came here he (Owen) had one year left on his contract," Benitez
told a press conference on Friday.
"Real Madrid knew that, and when a big club like them come knocking you
cannot control it."
The terms of the deal for Owen falls well short of Liverpool's initial
valuation of their star striker.
But the reality was that Real held all the aces because Liverpool,
having given up on efforts to persuade Owen to sign a new contract,
initiated the sale, knowing that Owen could have walked away for nothing
Owen's departure from the club he has been associated with since he was
11 years old became inevitable at the start of the week when Benitez
abruptly called a halt to negotiations with the player that had been
dragging on for over a year.
The striker was then left on the bench in the club's 2-0 win over
Austrian club AK Graz in a Champions League qualifier, ensuring he would
able to play for Real later in the competition.
Benitez, who guided Valencia to two Spanish titles in three years, felt
able to sanction the sale of his star striker because of the arrival of
14-million-pound striker Djibril Cisse and the form of Milan Baros, who
was outstanding for the Czech Republic at Euro 2004.