Tuesday 19th March: Michael Owen announces he is to retire from football at the end of the season, which was followed by football fans tributes from across the nation.
Although the well-known household name that is Owen, who we knew as a prolific goal scorer and deadly striker, left the game some years ago.
This isn’t the Owen we knew for scoring 40 goals in 89 appearances for his country- this is the Owen who has been plagued by injury and reduced to substitute appearances.
A winner of the Ballon d’Or and key man in Liverpool’s 2001 treble, the young Owen was a world beater and one of the games deadliest strikers. His prolific goal scoring for Liverpool was also replicated for his country where he is currently fourth top scorer, behind greats Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker and Jimmy Greaves respectively.
Did he peak too soon? Was he affected by the country’s hype and expectation created by his emergence? Owens rise in stock and development as a footballer dwindled following his Madrid move, where he was restricted to substitute appearances, starting only 15 out of 40 of his appearances. His goal ratio proved to be the league’s best in his only season in La Liga but, barring a scoring streak mid-way through the season, he never really took off with the Galacticos.
The Owen that returned to England wasn’t the same which departed, not the same which came to prominence after scoring against Argentina at France ’98.
His homecoming to the Premier League saw the start of troublesome injuries and limited appearances, making less than 150 in eight years.
At 33, his retirement may have come early but it won’t surprise most. His on field presence at Stoke hasn’t been the most effective and he has chose to bow out whilst he is still plying his trade in the top tier of English football.
Had he stayed with Liverpool, would we have seen the same Michael Owen, cementing a legendary status for club and country? His record for Liverpool and hard earned reputation spoke for itself: he was a deadly striker who had a knack for scoring goals. Had he kept this up for his club and avoided injury, would England have found more success in major tournaments? Who knows, but Owen, the original, will be remembered for his quality, not his decline.