In 2004, he left Liverpool for Real Madrid in search of Champions League glory. Early on, Madrid mostly shackled him to their bench and later ducked out to Juventus in the first knock-out round. The Liverpool players bounced on the big stage in Istanbul: lifting the trophy without him.
The next season, after Liverpool didn’t take him back, he moved to Newcastle, citing the chance to play alongside the great Alan Shearer as a big part of what drew him to Tyneside. He’d spent much of Shearer’s final season (and most of the next year) out injured.
He was once the most exciting young striker for England. 18 years and 59 days old when he hit the scene. Bursting with pace and invention. A World Cup darling. Now, there’s no room for him in Fabio Capello’s system. He watches his countrymen chase down World Cup qualification from afar.
And as if fate hasn’t laughed at him enough, Newcastle have been relegated.
A striker is supposed to peak around Michael Owen’s age, but diminished pace and a continuious stream of injuries make him seem far older and more faded than his 29 years should suggest.
As his contract with the fallen Magpies is up, rumors of a move inevitably float to the surface of the ever-murky transfer window punditry pool. Aston Villa. Everton. Roma. Reasonable names are batted about.
Either Villa, who flirted with Champions League qualification for much of the past season before sliding at the end, or Everton, who finished 5th and made a thrilling dash to the FA Cup final, might be a good fit for Michael’s ambitions. But Roma… we’ll come back to that.
It may be time for Michael Owen to consider that the aggresive, physical English Premier League is doing him few favors as far as warding off knocks, tears and strains goes. Does he want to spend the rest of his career drifting in and out of the active roster? A change in league might be the best move at this stage.
Look at his former teammate and fellow injury coinnoseur, Harry Kewell:
After a brilliant (and mostly fit) spell at Leeds United, Kewell moved to Anfield where he spent more time with the physios than with his teammates. Recurring injuries kept Kewell from living up to the uncharted potential he’d shown when he first came to England. Regaining his old match fitness seemed an impossible task for Kewell at, you guessed it, age 29.
At the end of the 2007/2008 season, Harry moved to Galatasary S.K. in the Turkish Süper Lig, where he now enjoys regular first team football and seems to have regained a consistent state of fitness.
If Roma’s interest is genuine, Serie A could be a good fit for Michael Owen. The league is less intense and physical than the EPL but still maintains high standards of quality. His creativity would be given room to thrive and his old prolificacy might blossom anew.
If he can stay out of the hospital gown for any length of time, Michael will score plenty more goals and perhaps even fight his way into Capello’s system. At 29, there’s no reason to blow the final whistle on his career. (Although, when it does finally sound, he should be given plenty of injury time.)
Perhaps Michael Owen is cursed. Since he walked out of Liverpool, events beyond his control have block him living up to his once boundless potential. One of the world’s most exciting young talents has struggled with form and place. One hopes it is not too late for Michael Owen to bounce back. But he’d have to find the right environment and take plenty of vitamins to pull it off at this point. Good luck, Michael.