Michael Owen is ready to run down his contract at Newcastle United.

The Sunday Express says Owen will run his contract down and leave on a free transfer rather than agree to take a pay cut as Newcastle United owner Mike Ashley insists on slashing the St James' Park budget.

The England striker is on a staggering £115,000-a-week deal on Tyneside - one which brought Ashley out in a cold sweat when he bought the club last year.

Ashley has drawn up a reduced contract for the striker of around £80,000 a week - the new wage ceiling at the club.