As Michael Owen sets himself up for retirement in May we are reminded of a career plagued by injury, a series of questions over his unanswered potential and that magnificent goal he scored against Argentina in 1998.
Most remember Owen as the young boy who dominated the strike force at Anfield, helping Liverpool to the treble in 2001, repeatedly topping the Premiership top scorers list and winning the Ballon d’Or. It was the hamstring injury he suffered whilst at Liverpool that robbed him of his most feared weapon, his speed.
His England career was sparked at the 1998 World Cup. Glenn Hoddle’s faith in the young striker ensured one of the most remarkable individual goals against football giants Argentina. His popularity amongst the England fans was guaranteed as he took home the Sports Personality of the Year award to top off a fantastic debut season for England. Owen went on to feature in Euro 2000, 2004, the World Cup in 1998, 2002 and 2006, marking his place amongst the minority of England stars for have featured in three World Cups.
His £8million move to Real Madrid in 2004 saw him play in the Glactico Empire for a season, alongside England teammate David Beckham. Owen’s place in first team football was subsequently replaced by a guaranteed position on the bench that ensured thirteen goals for Madrid. His swift return to Premiership football at Newcastle United was largely restricted by a chronic injury. Damage to his anterior cruciate ligament during England’s World Cup game against Sweden left him out of regular football for a over a year. The FA and FIFA were forced to foot half the bill of Owens £110,000 weekly wage as the debate over club versus country raged on. Yet Michael Owen was able to regain his fitness to take over the captaincy and become the clubs top scorer in 2007-2008.
After Newcastle’s relegation into championship Football, the free agent moved to premiership giants Manchester United under a ‘pay-as-you-play’ contract. The threat of injury struck again in March 2010 as surgery on his hamstring ruled him out for the rest of the season. His last appearance for the reds resulted of a thigh injury during the Champions League group stages in 2011. United refrained from offering Michael Owen an extension on his contract resulting in the end of his three year association with the club.
Owen’s lack of regular Football consequently resulted in his inability to add to his 89 caps under Fabio Capello and he missed out on the 2010 World Cup squad. His final professional season at Stoke City has seen him neglected from the first team action, with only six starting appearances for the club and one goal. His one goal at Stoke ensured that Michael Owen became only the seventh player to reach 150 Premier League goals.
On March 19, 2013, Owen announced his retirement from the game via Twitter leading to an outpour of support, gratitude and admiration for one of England’s finest strikers.
So what’s next for Michael Owen?
On his personal blog Owen stated: “On July 1, I propose to set up Michael Owen Management Ltd. focusing on guiding young players through their careers and offering them advice at every juncture of what can be a career full of pitfalls.”
Owen is not shy of pitfalls with a list of frustrating injuries, some serious hours spent on the bench and his demise as the reliable England striker. One thing is for sure that his conduct throughout his career has shown how hard work, determination and his gentlemanly approach to football has captured the hearts of all English fan across generations.
Michael Owen will be a figure sorely missed from the club and international game.