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'We were priced out of Owen bidding' - Benitez

LIVERPOOL, England, Dec 23 (Reuters) - Rafael Benitez says Newcastle's £16 million ($27.83 million) bid for Michael Owen made it impossible for Liverpool to bring him back to Anfield.

Benitez was keen on signing Owen in August, just 12 months after letting him join Real Madrid for £8.5 million.

He held talks with the England forward, who was keen to sign for Liverpool, but was unable to match Newcastle's transfer bid and Owen moved to St James' Park instead.

'I tried to sign him and he knows I tried to sign him, like he's said in the past few days,' Benitez told reporters on Friday. 'It even went to the last day of the deadline.

'In the end it was just impossible for us as another club bid a large amount of money for him.'

Owen returns to Liverpool for the first time since leaving for Spain in August 2004 when Newcastle travel there on Monday at the beginning of a busy holiday programme.

Owen has scored seven goals in eight games for his new club, including a hat-trick against West Ham United on Saturday, but Benitez is backing Owen's good friend, Liverpool defender Jamie Carragher, to stop him embarrassing his former employers.

'It's a special situation for Carra (Carragher) to be playing against Michael and I hope to see Carra win,' he said.

'Owen is a very good player and he can be dangerous for us so we will try not to let him score.

'He is a good finisher as well as a good player, but I think Carra knows him well and what he can do but it will be strange to play against him.