Rafael Benitez says that Liverpool’s efforts to sign Michael Owen from Real Madrid were thwarted because the Anfield outfit could not match the £17m Newcastle were prepared to pay for the England international.

“Madrid only ever talked about £16m. We couldn’t spend that much money on a player we sold for £8m,” he said.

“We even made phone calls early on Tuesday. In the end it was impossible.”

Newcastle paid a reported £17m for the 25-year-old England striker, and Benitez confirmed that such a figure wasbeyond their means.

“They put a lot of pressure on Michael to go to Newcastle because they wanted the money to sign Sergio Ramos. I hoped Michael would say no and then, maybe, we could do something,” he added.

“Whenever I was asked about Owen I had to respect the strikers we have at the club.

“We never planned to sell Djibril Cisse but when Madrid kept on telling us they wanted £16m, it was a problem and we had to look at different possibilities.

“We had clubs interested in Djibril, but we made it clear to them we wanted to keep the player.”