Owen a possible target for Japan's Chiba

May 13, 2008

TOKYO, May 13 (Reuters) - Japan's JEF United Chiba are planning an audacious swoop for England striker Michael Owen, Japanese media reported on Tuesday.

The J-League club have just unveiled former Liverpool first-team coach Alex Miller as their new manager and believe Owen can solve the team's current goal-scoring problems.

Japan's Nikkan Sports reported that Chiba officials were preparing an initial approach and that contact had been made with Owen's agent Tony Stephens.

Owen has yet to agree a new contract with Newcastle United and the former Liverpool and Real Madrid striker has been linked with a move to Premier League champions Manchester United.

A move to Japan could prove detrimental to Owen's England career, although JEF United have transfer funds available after selling several top players before the 2008 J-League season.

"The reports are not 100 percent off the mark," Chiba's Kentaro Shiga told Reuters.

"Owen's name was one of those being talked about when the team were looking at possible targets."

The club insisted new boss Miller and was not behind any potential swoop for the 28-year-old former European Footballer of the Year, who he worked with at Liverpool.

"The club were discussing options needed for individual positions before the new manager came in," Shiga said.

"The coach didn't tell the club to move for Owen."

Struggling Chiba are rooted to the bottom of the J-League first division, only winning their first game in 12 matches this season at the weekend with Miller watching from the stands.