Newcastle United have opened negotiations with Michael Owen over a new contract.

The Times says Owen's representatives were contacted by the club late last week to begin addressing an issue that Kevin Keegan, the manager, has identified as his priority this summer and, while no details have been discussed, further meetings have been scheduled.

However, there is deep concern within the club's hierarchy at a wage bill that is nudging 80 per cent of turnover and Owen's £115,000-a-week wages does not sit comfortably with a desire for reductions.