With his international career apparently over and his club’s Premier League status under major threat it begs the question, ‘What will happen to Micheal Owen’?
On 30 June 1998, 18 year-old Michael Owen’s name resonated around the football world after scoring THAT goal for England against Argentina. Michael James Owen had made his debut just a year previously, scoring after coming on as substitute in Liverpool’s 2-1 defeat away at Wimbledon. The following season the teenager bagged 18 league goals and finished as the league’s joint top goalscorer.
Owen spent seven years at Anfield scoring 118 goals in 216 games for the Reds. While Owen was neither big nor strong, he was blessed with pace, balance and two fantastic feet in front of goal. In the eight seasons he spent at Liverpool, Owen won the FA Cup, two League Cups, the UEFA cup and European super cup. Personal awards for the 5ft 8 goal machine include the prestiguous Ballon D’or, PFA Young Player of the year, the BBC sports personality of the year and he has shared the Premier League golden boot twice. Not bad, for a player who even as youngster consistently suffered with injuries – his hamstrings were a particular concern at Liverpool.
Following the sacking of Gerrard Houllier and the appointment of Rafael Benitez, on 13 August 2004 Owen was sold to Real Madrid for a cut-price fee of £8 million. Despite mustering the best goals to minutes played ratio in La Liga and netting 13 goals in 43 appearances in total his move to Spain proved to be less than succesful. Bear in mind that Owen only started 15 games for Los Galacticos, the less prolific pairing of Raul and Ronaldo were consistently preferred to the England forward. If competition for places wasn’t hard enough for him, Real promptly swooped for the Brazilian attacking duo of Robinho and Julio Baptista. Rumours of tensions between Owen and Real’s ‘darling’ Raul have also arisen since the Chester born striker left the club.
Throughout the summerof 2005 Owen seem destined to re-sign for Liverpool but instead his fomer emplyers baulked at the £16 million asking price – twice what they had sold him for just a year earlier. Instead it was Newcastle United that offered Owen an escape route back to ‘Blighty’ and the chance of regular first team football in order to retain his England place.
Owen’s career at Newcastle started off and on a similiar note to how it has continued- with injury, suffering from a thigh problem in pre-season and missing the first few weeks of the season. Owen managed just 11 games in his first season, netting seven goals after breaking his foot in december and having further surgery in March. Much to Newcastle’s dismay Owen still made the 2006 World Cup sqaud and suffered an horrific knee injury in his first game against Sweden, twisting as he fell with noone around him. Chairman Freddie Shepperd went ballistic and no wonder – his star striker earning around 120k per week was out for the season. Owen has since scored 23 goals in 62 games for Newcastle – far less prolific than in previous seasons.
It has been widely accepted that Owen is likely to leave the Magpies on a bosman this summer whether or not United can stave off the imminent threat of relegation going into the final game of the season. The question is who will want him?
The injuries that have plagued the former Liverpool star have cetainly taken their toll. Owen not only has even more trouble staying fit than before but he appears three yards slower than the 18 year old lad who held off Ayala for 30 yards before ghosting past Chamot and slamming the ball in the top left corner for England. Even with a 50% paycut his wages are still well out of reach for most clubs and he certainly is no youngster at 29.
Everton have long been linked with offering the forward a return to Merseyside but David Moyes is surely too shrewd to risk a large chunk of his relatively small wage on an injury prone player. Some still talk of a return to Anfield , if he does play proffessional football Anfield again it won’t be in a Liverpool shirt though.
In spite of media speculation, even on a bosman a move to any the big four seems rather unlikely. Then there are the clubs who tout themselves as big four contenders City, Villa, Spurs and the aforementioned Toffees. I can’t seen any of them fancying him. While Everton are unlikley to risk their preciously low resources , the other three have enough money to go for a younger and more reliable option.
Whoever decides to take on Owen it will be a gamble and doubts will always remain as to whether it is possible to get enough minutes out of the player, let alone a decent goal tally. Wherever he goes it is likely Owen will not only have to take a huge drop in wages but forget about adding to his collection of winner’s medals at the top level. It would seem folly to take sign him as anything more than a bit-part striker for any club willing to challenge in the upper half of the table. The clubs in the lower half may not only seem unnattractive to a man with 89 England caps to his name, but could he even fit in with direct style of play at the likes of Stoke, Bolton or Blackburn if they were interested?
This being said it would appear there is enough evidence in previous Premier League activity that at least manager will fancy a flutter on the man who doesn’t mind placing the odd bet or two himself, the question is who?