Deadly as ever

Michael Owen's recent double against Leeds proved that, when given the chance, Owen remains a deadly finisher. If England are short of options for Euro 2012, Owen could even reignite his international career. That would be some turnaround 14 years after his heroics on the world stage. By Feargal Brennan.

Back in 1997, the English Premier League witnessed the entrance of a young man who seemed destined to take the English top flight by storm, carrying his club Liverpool and England with him.

Michael Owen burst on to the scene during the 1997-98 campaign after making a scoring Liverpool debut at the end of the previous season, by netting on the opening day of the season. Whispers had been abound on Merseyside regarding this young man ever since he broke the Deeside school's goal-scoring record of legendary Reds striker Ian Rush, aged just 12, and Owen was quick to establish his own cult status within the club.

Injury to talismanic striker Robbie Fowler gave Owen an extended run in the team, and the Chester-born youngster grabbed the opportunity with both hands — scoring 18 goals in his first full season and subsequently finishing joint top scorer in the Premier League, picking up the PFA Young Player of the Year award in the process.

A magnificent season for Owen was capped when he made his first appearance for England's senior side in a friendly against Chile, aged just 18 years and 59 days, becoming the youngest player to represent England since Busby Babe Duncan Edwards.

He followed this up with his first senior international goal, scoring the winner in a friendly against Morocco, this time becoming England's youngest ever goal-scorer.

His performances for Liverpool and his early international performances made for a significant late clamour for his inclusion in the England squad for the 1998 World Cup and boss Glenn Hoddle agreed, with Owen selected for a tournament that would launch his career on to the world stage.

A goal against Romania in the group stages persuaded Hoddle to start Owen against South American giants Argentina in their last-16 tie. Although England were eliminated in a penalty shootout, Owen scored one of the most memorable goals in World Cup history as well as scoring in the shootout.

Owen returned to Liverpool and enjoyed another fine season, scoring 23 times in 43 appearances, and his star was firmly on the rise but injury curtailed his season and fitness problems were to dog the remainder of his Anfield career.

Despite the injuries, Owen continued to show his natural instincts in front of goal — scoring 41 goals over two seasons. They helped Liverpool win the League Cup, the UEFA Cup and the FA Cup when he scored twice in the final to memorably beat Arsenal. He was also awarded the Ballon d'Or for his performances that season, a period which included a hat-trick for England in their 5-1 thrashing of Germany in Munich.

He remained at his childhood club until the summer of 2004, by which time he had netted 158 goals for the Reds, but amid a deteriorating contract situation and a difficult early relationship with new manager Rafael Benitez, Owen left the club to sign for Real Madrid for GBP8 million.

Owen joined the Galacticos of Madrid — which at the time included England team-mate David Beckham, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane and Raul — and struggled for game time in his early days yet despite starting just 22 games in his first season, he still racked up an impressive 14 goals.

Unhappy with the amount he was playing, Owen left Madrid and returned to England with Newcastle in a GBP18 million deal.

Despite the huge optimism on Tyneside surrounding his capture, Owen's fitness problems returned and in an injury-ravaged four seasons, Owen managed just 65 games, scoring 30 goals. He was to become something of a scapegoat following their relegation at the end of the 2008-9 season and his transfer fee and wages were blamed in some quarters for the financial strife the club endured.

Released by Newcastle, Owen received offers from a host of clubs before making a highly controversial switch to Manchester United. Sir Alex Ferguson was delighted to secure Owen's signature, describing him as a “world-class forward, with a proven goal-scoring record at the highest level”.

Once again though, Owen has been used sparingly by United, primarily because of the magnificent form of Dimitar Berbatov and Wayne Rooney in recent seasons.

That did not stop him signing a new two-year contract earlier this year and his recent double against Leeds proved that, when given the chance, Owen remains a deadly finisher.

If England are short of options for Euro 2012, Owen could even reignite his international career. That would be some turnaround 14 years after his heroics on the world stage.

The injury problems that have blighted Owen's career have prevented him fulfilling his early potential.

Married childhood sweetheart Louise in 2005, and they have four children together. It is rumoured that Owen has a collection of five cars, including an Aston Martin Vanquish.

FACTFILE Name: Michael Owen Position: Striker D.O.B: 14/12/1979 England caps: 89 England goals: 40 England debut: v Chile, 1998

Moment to remember: His goal against Argentina and hat-trick in Germany will live long in the memory of any England fan.

Moment to forget: A red card for Liverpool against Manchester United in 1998 was seen as a sign of the striker's immaturity.

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