A broken promise

At the age of 33 you might think that Michael Owen still has plenty to offer, but he has suffered a catalogue of injury problems and decided now is the time to bring his illustrious career to an end. By Ben Topliss.

When Michael Owen announced his decision to retire at the end of the season glowing tributes came pouring in for the former England striker.

At the age of 33 you might think the Stoke striker still has plenty to offer, but he has suffered a catalogue of injury problems and decided now is the time to bring his illustrious career to an end.

Owen has spent more time than most on the treatment table, but he has been one of England’s greatest ever strikers and after making his name at Liverpool, he also enjoyed spells at Real Madrid, Newcastle and Manchester United before joining Stoke.

Only Bobby Charlton (49), Gary Lineker (48) and Jimmy Greaves (44) have scored more England goals than Owen’s impressive 40 from 89 appearances.

Had Owen not suffered so many injury problems it is anyone’s guess exactly how many goals he would have scored for his country, but he would surely have bettered Charlton’s long-standing record.

Former England boss Glenn Hoddle said: “He is in the top four of our greatest ever finishers, along with Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer. Some might say he is at the top of that list.” Lineker said: “He’s one of the greatest strikers of England. We could do with someone like that now, a natural goal-scorer. Michael was unquestionably one of the best strikers in world football at his peak.”

A prodigious young talent, Owen progressed into Liverpool’s first team at the tender age of 17 having broken numerous goal-scoring records for club and country at youth level. He scored on his Liverpool debut against Wimbledon and went on to win the English Premier League Golden Boot in his first two full seasons.

Owen came of age in 1998, a year in which he became England’s youngest international of the 20th century and shot to prominence when he scored a stunning solo goal against Argentina in the World Cup in France.

He was also voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year and it seemed there was no limit to what he could achieve in the game.

Owen helped Liverpool secure an FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble in the 2000/01 season and was named European Footballer of the Year — the first Englishman to win the award since Kevin Keegan in 1979.

He also scored a hat-trick in one of England’s greatest ever victories; a 5-1 triumph over Germany in Munich in a World Cup qualifier, before going on to captain his country.

Real Madrid came knocking in 2004 and Owen soon found himself lining up alongside the likes of Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos and Raul in the Spanish capital. Owen initially struggled to make an impact at Real, but he found his feet and scored 16 goals for the club before returning to the EPL with Newcastle in the summer of 2005. For Newcastle fans it seemed Owen and Magpies legend Alan Shearer would be a dream pairing, but his time at St James’ Park was blighted by injuries.

Owen suffered a serious knee injury at the 2006 World Cup which would keep him out of action for almost a year, but he still managed to chalk up 30 goals in 79 appearances for the Magpies before they were relegated at the end of the 2008/09 season.

That agony was quickly replaced by the ecstasy of being signed by Manchester United on a free transfer. United boss Sir Alex Ferguson was always an admirer of Owen, who he tried to sign as a youngster before he joined Liverpool. His career at Old Trafford was a stop-start affair, with fleeting appearances in the team.

However, United fans will certainly never forget his most telling contribution to the club — a stoppage time winner against Manchester City to secure a dramatic 4-3 victory at Old Trafford as he claimed his first EPL winners’ medal.

Owen was informed he would not be offered a new deal by United last summer, but he remained in the EPL by securing a move to Stoke. Frustrated by a lack of playing time and injury problems, Owen’s time at Stoke has not gone to plan but when he hangs up his boots this summer he deserves to be remembered as one of the all-time greats.

FACTFILE THE PLAYER: Michael Owen POSITION: Striker CLUB: Stoke DOB: 14/12/1979 INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 89 INTERNATIONAL GOALS: 40

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Scoring a stunning individual goal against Argentina

at the 1998 World Cup.

MOMENT TO FORGET: Being relegated from the EPL with Newcastle in May 2009

FOOTBALLER’S WIFE: Owen is married to Louise Bonsall and the couple have three daughters and one son.

FOOTBALLER’S DRIVE: He drives a Ferrari California.

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