Michael Owen has admitted that although he found Rafa Benitez 'cold', the pair had agreed details for a move which would have brought the former Liverpool striker back to Anfield from Real Madrid.
The two clubs failed to agree a fee though, leaving BT Sport pundit Owen going to St James' Park for a spell which lasted four seasons before he moved to Manchester United; Newcastle's opponents this Saturday.
I've been reading the usual hateful messages about me playing for Man Utd.— michael owen (@themichaelowen) November 14, 2017
Once again and for the avoidance of doubt:
I love @LFC and before every move since I left I tried to go back. It never happened and so I had to continue my career by signing for other clubs.
Speaking to 90min ahead of the weekend's game, he praised the work that Benitez has done with the Magpies, saying: "There's some really good players in their squad, but Benitez has looked at the overall picture and thought 'how are we going to get our best results?'
"Tactically he's one of the best out there, and I think he's going to keep Newcastle up quite comfortably by squeezing every little bit of ability out of the players."
He continued: "He was the manager for about a month of pre-season before I left to go to Real Madrid, and then when I was leaving Real Madrid to come back home we met up and between me and him, we had virtually sorted everything out - except Real and Liverpool couldn't sort a fee out so I ended up going to Newcastle.
"But at the time, I obviously met him briefly before I left and briefly hoping to return, but it never was possible in the end."
Asked to expand on his brief impressions of Benitez, he admitted: "Well, I think to be brutally honest he's a manager who's quite cold. He's got his rules and regulations and expects his players to do this and that - there's not much patting on the back.
"Even once I left Liverpool, speaking to the Carraghers and Gerrards of this world, he's quite distant from the players but just an amazing tactician and knows the game inside out. He knows the opposition, knows the strengths and weaknesses of his own team and how to get the best out of them. I think he's an exceptional coach, but on the flip side if you're a player under him you'll probably find him quite distant and cold."
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