England's Owen Is Considering Playing Abroad

Times Staff Writer

England striker Michael Owen, the European footballer of the year in 2001, has hinted that he may be ready to take his game to the next level and leave his club team, Liverpool.

In an interview with Shoot magazine, Owen said there is a chance he'll play elsewhere when his contract runs out in 2005.

"It's impossible to say about my future at Liverpool," Owen, who turns 24 next month, told the magazine. "If they were winning the league every year, there would not be any decision to make about playing abroad."

Liverpool is in eighth place in the English Premier League, 13 points behind first-place Arsenal. Last season, the club finished fifth and failed to qualify for the European Champions League, a perk Owen said would be necessary for him to stay.

"I don't want to be just a normal professional," said Owen, who scored in his debut for Liverpool at age 17 against Wimbledon in 1997 and had 18 goals the next season. "I aim to reach the top, and to do that, you have to play well against the best teams in the world."

Owen has held off signing a contract extension and has been linked to possible moves to Barcelona and Real Madrid, where England teammate David Beckham plays.

Liverpool officials downplayed the story, saying on the team's Web site that Owen recently moved into his "dream home" and that in the article Owen also said he was "very happy at Liverpool."

Advocaat Advocates

Netherlands Coach Dick Advocaat fired what he hopes will be an inspirational volley to his players, saying he will resign if his team fails to qualify for Euro 2004.

"If we don't qualify and we don't go, then I quit," said Advocaat, whose team faces Scotland in a two-leg playoff beginning Saturday.

Advocaat, who most recently coached Glasgow Rangers, also coached the Netherlands in the 1994 World Cup in the United States.

North Korea Walks

North Korea's men's team walked off the field during the 60th minute of an Asian Cup qualifying match against Iran at Tehran after one of its players was injured after a firecracker was thrown from the stands.

The incident occurred about four minutes after Iran's Ali Daei scored a penalty kick for a 1-0 lead. The injured player was not identified.

The Asian Football Confederation has not ruled on the outcome of the match.

Ronaldo Troubles

Brazilian striker Ronaldo was excused from training Wednesday for the team's upcoming World Cup qualifiers to tend to his possible separation from his wife, Milene Domingues, a spokesman for the player said.

Domingues created controversy earlier this year when she was included on Brazil's team for the Women's World Cup. Team officials admitted that her inclusion had more to do with publicity for the women's game than her ability as a player.

Figo Future Uncertain

Portuguese midfielder Luis Figo, a former FIFA world player of the year, said he might not retire from international soccer after all after next summer's European Championship in Portugal.

"[Retiring] is my thinking, but since I never make definitive long-term plans, well, I can't say it's going to be that way," Figo, 31, told Portuguese state radio RDP. "At the right time, we'll see about my future."

Quick Passes

Brazilian striker Luis Fabiano, who plays for Sao Paolo, was suspended for four games by the country's sports tribunal for head-butting an opponent and insulting a female referee. The ban does not prevent Fabiano from playing in Brazil's upcoming World Cup qualifiers.... Poland got a goal and an assist from Jacek Krzynowek in a 3-1 friendly victory over Euro 2004 qualifier Italy at Warsaw. The loss ended Italy's 10-game unbeaten streak.... Eddie Gray, interim coach for Leeds United, rescinded a $215,000 fine given to Australian striker Mark Viduka by former coach Peter Reid because of a confrontation involving the two. Meanwhile, Paul Hart, coach of first-division Nottingham Forest and a former Leeds player, is considered to be the top choice to become permanent coach although he denies any interest.... Uruguay captain Alvaro Recoba said he is doubtful for Saturday's World Cup home qualifier against Chile because of a pulled left hamstring.... Spartak Moscow striker Roman Pavlyuchenko has been banned for five matches by European soccer's governing body for punching an opponent in a UEFA Cup match last month.


Times wire services contributed to this report.

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