Injury has disrupted many talented players careers and in some cases, ended them completely. Owen Hargreaves career is not over just yet, but it is uncertain as he looks to rebuild his career.
This week, Hargreaves made a sensational return to the world of football courtesy of internet sensation YouTube – where he and his trainer released video footage of his fitness sessions in the gym. The clips have been met with laughter as people flocked to Twitter and other social networking sites to share a giggle. Personally, I didn’t see the funny side. Maybe I didn’t get the joke. In my eyes, there was nothing funny about seeing one of my favourite players of the last 10 years doing his pre-season training in a gym - when he should be outside on the training pitch with a club. Either way, the former Manchester United midfielder is still in the hunt for a new club where some managers will be keeping a close eye on his progress.
The one thing that some people have dismissed entirely of the player is how successful he has been during his career. Most people only remember his achievements post 2006 World Cup – where he was one of England’s standout players. What some didn’t know, was that he was already a huge success in Germany.
Unlike today, where most English talent remains within our shores, Hargreaves was one of the key players at Bayern Munich. He made his first appearance for the club at the age of just 19 in August 2000. In the same season, Bayern won the Champions League, making Hargreaves one of only two English players who have won the European competition with a non-English club (the other being Steve McManaman who won it twice with Real Madrid). Hargreaves went on to win Four Bundesliga titles and three domestic cups. His success didn’t go unnoticed during his time at Bayern, where he was selected in England’s full squad at the World Cup in 2002 and 2006 and at Euro 2004.
Hargreaves was seen as one of the outsiders by England’s fans initially, and many voiced their discontent at him being in the side. One game that springs to mind, was when I watched the England Sweden game on a large screen during the 2006 World Cup, where many fans sang ‘take of Hargreaves, bring on Lennon’. Some said he was ‘too German’ and ‘not English’ due to his Canadian upbringing and German accent. He won the fans over eventually, though, in unfortunate circumstances for England. He was England’s best player against Portugal in the quarterfinals, where they were eliminated on penalties. He was later named England’s player of the year for 2006.
A £17million transfer saw Hargreaves join up with Sir Alex Ferguson in 2007 – a year after negotiations had broken down. His first year at Old Trafford could not have gone any better. He would help United win the Premier League with a series of fine harrowing midfield performances and, a Champions League victory in Moscow over Chelsea - where he scored the pick of the penalties in the shootout. Sadly, that was as good as it got for Hargreaves at United. The last three years have been marred by a chronic tendinitis condition, which has restricted him to just 6 minutes of football since 2008.
He is still only 30 and injuries aside, still has time to get back to full fitness. After the 2008 Champions League final, he was one of the best central midfielders in the world. He was a hostile player, who would never hold back - very much a Scott Parker of today, just with a bit more class about him. There were times when Hargreaves even wrestled the ball out of the clutches of Cristiano Ronaldo when it cam to set piece duty – due to his ability from dead ball situations. He could play. It’s fair to say he was the complete midfielder. Unlike Scholes, he could tackle and run around all day long. He must have been a nuisance to play against. It seems weird writing this as it sounds as if I am talking about a player already retired. For me, England missed out the most. Had Hargreaves been fit, there would have been no chance of Gareth Barry playing at the World Cup in South Africa. This wasn’t to be though.
I hope that this is not the end of Hargreaves and I am sure neither he nor anyone else is thinking the same. If no one wants him, a nice club in Suffolk would quite like his services.