Michael Owen’s future at Anfield remains in doubt after he was omitted from the team to face Graz AK in last night’s Champions League qualifier in Austria.

The England striker watched from the bench to avoid being cup-tied, amid speculation he will join Real Madrid. as Liverpool beat Graz AK 2-0.

Liverpool manager Rafael Benitez refused to comment about Owen’s position.

“At the moment Michael is one of our four forwards,” said Benitez.

“I don’t want to say anything else – I’m sorry.”

Benitez claimed the decision to leave Owen out of the starting line-up was purely tactical.

“I always play my best players and I decided on my starting XI and Owen was not in it,” Benitez said.

“It was simple, I chose Baros and Cisse to play.

“I understand you want to talk about Owen, but for me the important thing is that we played well and won.

“I do not talk about the future.”

Owen, who has 10 months left on his contract, has been in negotiations with the club for several months, but tellingly, he has yet to sign a new deal.

Real are reported to be prepared to pay £10m for Owen in a deal which would also see either Fernando Morientes or Samuel Eto’o move to Liverpool.