Michael Owen has had an astounding career. Whilst he burst onto the footballing world stage with a wonder goal against Argentina in 1998, he had already been raising eyebrows throughout his youth by breaking every goal scoring record set before him. He has played for two of the biggest and most supported teams in the world, namely Liverpool and Real Madrid. He has battled relegation (and lost) with Newcastle, he has captained his country, and been both the nation’s hero (think hat-trick against Germany) and a scapegoat for the critics (think countless injuries). In fact, having read all of that you would probably forgive the unknowing for thinking he was in his late 30s, living in post retirement relaxation.
As reality stands, however, his career is very much alive and kicking, having recently completed a shock move to Manchester United. Like many Liverpool fans, I would imagine, I was disgusted at the news – a former Kop icon signing for the enemy – and spent several minutes loudly swearing and cursing about disloyalty, abandonment and wasted talent. After I’d calmed down, I then thought about the subject of this article: has Michael Owen, former Ballon d’Or winner and prince of hat-tricks, still got what it takes to compete at the highest level for both club and country? Or have his glory days left him behind, like his pace and resistance to injury?
My first instinct is to write him off to an injury ridden misery of an Old Trafford career – much like his stint at Newcastle – having seen the shocking statistic of his number of injury free starts over the past 4 seasons: Michael Owen is worth, on average, 16 games per season. Judging by his career goals to games average, this means a potential 7 goals for Manchester United in the 2009/2010 season, a worrying statistic for the current title holders, more so given that he is a replacement for the combined loss of goals from Ronaldo and Tevez.
However, if anything, Michael Owen is good at proving wrong his critics. Time and time again we have seen the Chester born striker be bollocked by the English press, only to silence all critics with a flurry of goals in stellar fashion. Remarkably, a large portion of these come from hat-tricks, hence his aptly given nickname. I can clearly remember him running to the dugout and repeatedly pointing to his left foot after having scored with it, in response to critics who had written that his left foot was “for standing on”.
This confidence in his own ability; combined with his intensely competitive nature, should be enough to make one think otherwise, and certainly has been enough for Sir Alex Ferguson to throw a contract his way. A gamble, sure, but one that incurred no transfer fee, and will no doubt be more beneficial than detrimental in the long run.
So, even though I find myself part of the new breed of Michael Owen hater (I’m sorry, Michael, but becoming a Manc was the final straw), and a new singer of the “Where were you in Istanbul” song, I am not going to write him off just yet. I will reserve further comment, and given his new partnership with fellow England striker Wayne Rooney, I shall silently smart every time the little bugger sticks one away – something I’m sure we’ll see him do plenty of in the coming season.