by Stuart Moriarty-Patten
If you look at a snapshot of Michael Owen’s career in 2004 you would think that he was on the verge of entering the middle of what so far had been a very successful career, and he was on the path to achieving the greatness that his early promise had fulfilled. On course to being England’s record scorer, a legend at Liverpool, winner of the Ballon d’Or in 2001, the first from Liverpool to do so and the first English player since Kevin Keegan in 1979, he was now embarking on a new adventure and ready to conquer Europe with one of the world’s foremost clubs, Real Madrid.
However fast forward to the opening day of the 2012/13 season and, as other professional footballers kick off their seasons wondering what the next few months is going to bring them, Michael Owen is left kicking his heels club-less and seemingly friendless. Since Man United decided to release Owen he has been linked with a few clubs at home and abroad, but his reluctance to take a pay cut, or a cut in standard, means no one has been willing to take a risk on the injury-prone striker.
So where did it all go wrong? The move to Real Madrid in 2004 left a feeling of bitterness among some Liverpool fans who already doubted Owen’s loyalty to the club, as Owen only months earlier had said he would not leave and he would be extending his contract. As it happened the Spanish club got Owen for a comparative bargain of £8 million as his contract was close to expiring, and Owen alienated the Kop faithful by expressing his desire to win “big trophies” as his reason for leaving
While the move to Real Madrid seemed the perfect opportunity for Owen to add a new level to his game and win European glory it never quite worked out for him. He spent much of the time at the club on the bench and somewhat ironically that season saw Madrid finish without a trophy and exiting the Champions League at the first knock out round. Ironically it was Liverpool who went on to win that years top European trophy in a memorable night in Istanbul.
Coming to terms with the fact that he was way down the pecking order of strikers at Real Madrid, who were also looking to get in new players following their disappointing season, Owen sought a return to England. Despite an interest from Liverpool only Newcastle were willing to the pay the fee and wages being demanded by Real Madrid and Michael Owen. His time at Newcastle, while showing the occasional flash of the old brilliance was mostly marred by injuries, and again he left a club without much good will as he raised the ire of Newcastle fans, who had never really warmed to him, by letting his contract wind down and leaving as a free agent.
Next to follow was a surprising signing to Manchester United, further alienating many Liverpool fans. Injuries again limited his appearances leaving many Scousers to scathingly dismiss him as a glorified cheerleader so much time did he spend on the sidelines. As a backdrop his England career also drifted to an end. He last played for England in 2008 when a substitute appearance against France earned him his 89th cap. Since then he has not figured in England’s plans despite the occasional noise from the press.
Sadly for Michael Owen, rather than leaving the game with a legacy as one the greats, he is seemingly unloved by Liverpool and Newcastle fans and mostly forgotten by the rest. The extent of how far his star has fallen can be seen by in the attempt by Owen’s recent attempt to hold a question and answer session via Twitter that only resulted in a competition to see who could take the mickey out of him the most. Sometimes during his career Owen has seemed more concerned about money and horse racing than the fans, but now it seems football is no longer concerned about Owen, and the career that once promised so much is in danger of fizzling out with barely a whisper.