After a fantastic summer of covering Euro 2012 out here in Spain, I am about to embark on my voyage back to the UK. I am sitting here on uncomfortable iron seats at El Altet airport in Alicante, looking at the shimmering heat of the midday sun, knowing this is the end of the road for this period of my journalistic career. As tough as moving on to a new project will be, it is time to move forward into the next chapter of my life. Realizing that the end of the line is lurking around the corner has been without question the hardest part. With this perplexing feeling at the forefront of my current thoughts, it brings me onto the topic of this article. Has Michael Owen reached the end of his football career?
Even the most casual football fan knows all about the achievements of Michael Owen, so in no way will I waste valuable reading time detailing these at great length. No, the blog simply poses the question “It is the end of the road for Michael Owen?” In my humble and honest opinion, the answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. Recent Tweets stating that he wants to continue playing at the highest level do not hoodwink me. After a less than impressive and injury plagued six years or so, a period in which he has spent more time gaining knowledge of various medical procedures instead of scoring crucial goals which he was once famed for, the end of the road appears to be in sight for Michael.
Michael Owen did not score a single league goal last season, adding one more year since he looked like a striker with killer instinct. For a player who once had searing pace and world-class finishing ability, he has looked a shadow of his former self since 2010. Though the lack of goals is a concern for any potential employer, it is the crux of Owen’s issue. Newcastle and Manchester United fans must have looked on with disdain due to the amount of time he spent away from the pitch, whilst still pocketing a king’s ransom.
Since 2005, he has only participated in a mindboggling 102 games, a noticeably poor return for such a high profile footballer. Maybe it is flawed to suggest that some of Michael’s recent injury problems are due to an apparent lack of interest in playing football, rather than his brittle body breaking down once again. However, when you see him talking so passionately about horse racing to the BBC at the recent Royal Ascot meeting, with that old style Michael Owen fire radiating from his eyes, I begin to wonder where football stands in his current enjoyment pecking order. A friend of mine (not a “My mate owns a burger van and saw Ronaldo eating a chip butty with Sir Alex” style Twitter friend I must add) owns racehorses that are trained at the same Tom Dascombe stables as Michael’s. He tells me of the enormous enthusiasm Owen has for the horse racing business, something he appears to have lost for the football industry. When was the last time you saw/read about his excitement for football? It was probably when he scored the winner in the Manchester derby in 2009. Once the passion goes, it is the end of the road for any footballer…. And I truly believe we are at that juncture with Michael Owen. After all, he has nothing more to prove after an illustrious football career.
Various outlets report that he would refuse to drop down into the Championship and has “interesting offers” on the table. But what does he have to gain from continuing his playing career? Surely money cannot be the answer after wisely investing his fortune rather than losing countless sums of money playing poker with renowned gamblers like Ipswich’s Michael Chopra. Adding into the mix his Mr Nice Guy reputation remaining intact after rejecting the lavish party scene, unlike UK tabloid bad boy John Terry. He continues to be a marketer’s dream despite his lack of game time. If money isn’t the main factor, maybe his ego is masking over the part of the brain that is screaming, “Retire”. No member of the global football family wants to see pictures of Michael Owen being carried off on a stretcher after his suffers a serious injury. Michael has already shown that his body cannot complete even a small percentage of a PL campaign, so where are these “interesting offers” coming from? Recently some media outlets have bizarrely claimed “Everton NEED to sign Michael Owen”. I would flip it over and suggest “Nobody NEEDS Michael Owen”. The on-pitch rewards of having Michael Owen in your squad will not even begin to chip away the massive outlay to acquire his services. In today’s economic downturn, senior injured players who cannot play week in and week out are not top priority for top-flight clubs.
Ian Rush, Paul Gascoigne and Robbie Fowler are examples of superstar footballers who should have retired long before tarnishing their careers by playing for the likes of Wrexham, Gansu Tianma and Muangthong Utd. I am hoping the former ‘Boy Wonder’ of English football doesn’t fall into a similar trap. We want to remember the 1998 goal against Argentina Michael, not you scoring the occasional goal in reserve games at Crewe or Tranmere, whilst siphoning off £50k a week from a mid-table PL club. As my end of the road takes the of form of an inadequately constructed Ryanair baggage checking contraption here in Alicante airport, Michael Owen’s will surely be facing his own ‘sign’ in the foreseeable future. The correct decision is for him not to blot his career with another injury-hit season but instead retire with dignity and reputation firmly intact.
With the rumours across the Internet suggesting he could sign for Everton or Stoke, I am hoping Michael Owen realizes he is at the end of the football road.