Michael Owen is one of the most prolific strikers England has seen in this century. A player with such pace, agility, and finishing instincts bounded him to be an England and Liverpool legend. Michael Owen, unlike many, peaked his career too early, while he was in his teens and signed his professional contract with Liverpool, followed by his national team debut for the Three Lions. He is the second English player to win the Ballon d’Or in the last 40 years after Kevin Keegan in 1978 and 1979. At the age of 22, He received the Ballon D’or in 2001. From being a Golden boy in Britain to his decline at a drastic rate, Here’s exclusive content on his birthday.
Michael Owen was born in Chester, Cheshire as the fourth child of Jeanette Owen and Terry Owen. His father was a professional football player and played for clubs such as Everton and Chester City. Michael Owen grew up being an Everton supporter. At the age of eight, He was selected for the Deeside Area Primary School’s U-11 team, and a year later, He became the captain of the team. Next year, He had thrashed Ian Rush’s 20-year old record of scoring 72 goals in a season by scoring 97 goals for the same team. He also broke Gary Speed’s record for playing three seasons for the same team.
He also joined Mold Alexandra at the age of eight and started playing for the U-10 team where he went on to score 34 goals in 24 games in his debut season.
Youth Career at the Merseyside Red
Michael Owen drew the attention of many people while playing for the Deeside School and the first one to contact Owen’s family was Liverpool legend Steve Heighway, who was then the Liverpool youth development officer. He wrote Owen’s father a heart whelming letter and as a result, He was admitted to the Liverpool youth system. In the letter, It was stated :
“[Heighway] wrote us a smashing letter and it was love at first sight for Michael, he was impressed from day one.Terry Owen
He was then sent to the FA’s School Of Excellence at Lilleshall in Shropshire at the age of 14. Owen slowly started to play for England’s U-15 and U-16s and it created a great impact as he started to break records with 28 goals in 20 games. He, in the meantime, continued his studies and gained excellence in it but was sure to continue as a professional football player.
In the 1995-96 season of FA Youth Cup, He scored a hat-trick against the defending champions Manchester United and winning the match in the extra-time. He went on to score another hat-trick in the semis against Crystal Palace to win the match 4-2 in the first leg. Liverpool were 3-0 down after 50 mins in the second leg and Owen came on as a substitute and scored a brace to turn the match in their favour 7-5. In the two-legged final, Michael Owen missed the first leg due to international duties for England, but came back in the second leg and defeated a promising West-Ham United which consisted of players like Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard by winning the match by 2-1. The consecutive 24 match win streak of West Ham ended and marked Liverpool as the FA Youth Cup holder for the first time. Michael Owen was considered the hero of the campaign.
Rise of a Liverpool Legend:
At the age of seventeen, Michael Owen was handed with a professional contract with Liverpool. Steve Heighway highly rated him as he was ready to face anything that came in his way. He was rated as the best attacker of his age in the country during 1997. Ted Powell, the England U-18 coach also stated that he was the best of his generation that included players like Scholes, Fowler, and David Beckham.
On 6th May 1997, Owen came on as the substitute in the penultimate game of the season and marked his debut in a grand manner by scoring his debut goal at the Selhurst Park against Wimbledon. Liverpool lost the match that eventually helped United to lift the trophy but it was just the beginning of a teenager to become a Liverpool Legend. The Liverpool Echo stated:-
“[Only] Michael Owen could emerge with any credit from a performance that mocked Anfield’s rich traditions.”Liverpool Echo
In the next season, he replaced injured Robbie Fowler as the first-choice striker. He won the Premier League Golden Boot and also won the PFA Young Player of the Year award. He finished in the third position for the race of PFA Player of the Year, behind Dennis Bergkamp and Tony Adams. Owen played brilliantly and broke many personal records and helped Liverpool to challenge for the championship but unfortunately failed to win the league. During this time he signed a five-year deal worth Euro 2.5 million. He was the highest-paid teenager earning 10,000 euros per week. Owen finished second to Zinedine Zidane in World Player of the Year.
Owen continued his brilliant form from the start of the 1998-99 season that helped him to retain his golden boot award despite picking up a hamstring injury in April in the match against Leeds United, which ended his season abruptly and eventually Liverpool’s title-winning hopes fell apart. The team became Owen-centric as everyone wanted to feed him the ball because of his off-the-ball movement and great acceleration.
Owen returned to action after five months during the 1999-2000 season but could not play regularly as he encountered recurring injuries and only managed to play 9 full matches in the season leading Liverpool to once again go trophyless and also failed to qualify for the Champions League as They couldn’t finish in top 4.
The new season marked a new beginning to his injury-laden previous season. Owen helped Liverpool to change their six-year trophyless status to a treble-winning side. Liverpool won the League Cup, FA Cup, and UEFA Europa League. Owen scored a brace against Arsenal in the FA Cup final. Owen received the European Player Of the Year(Ballon d’Or) for his performance, becoming the first English player to win since Kevin Keegan was awarded in 1979.
Owen’s excellent form continued as Liverpool bagged the Charity Shield(now known as FA Community Shield) against Manchester United and UEFA Super Cup by defeating Bayern Munich. Liverpool challenged for the league championship that year but eventually ended up as runners behind Arsenal. Owen scored his 100th goal for the Merseyside vs West Ham United on 29th December 2001. Owen became one of the highest-paid players in the English Premier League as he signed a four-year deal worth £70,000-a-week.
Rumours started regarding Owen’s joining the Real Madrid side and become a part of ‘THE GALACTICOS’ as Florentino Perez clearly stated:-
“The best players must play for Real Madrid”Florentino Perez(Real Madrid President)
In 2002-03 season Liverpool again started off in a promising style to lift the league championship trophy but a series of bad games knocked them not only from the top of the table but a final day exit from the Champions League spot. This exit from Europe’s top football competition leads to speculations regarding Owen’s career at Liverpool.
Though, He stayed at Liverpool but again failed to win the league in spite of being one of the contenders. Owen suffered an ankle injury while playing against Arsenal as he constantly suffered from his niggling ankle and hamstring issues. Owen scored his 150th goal against Portsmouth for Liverpool on 15th February. Despite suffering from injuries, He helped Liverpool to seal the fourth position and UCL slot.
In the next season after Gérard Houllier got sacked from Liverpool’s managerial position, Rumours started to speculate that Owen might leave the club, and finally during the winter transfer window, He moved to Real Madrid.
From A Successful Kop to a failed Galactico :
Owen was presented with the number 11 shirt by the Royal Whites. He joined Real Madrid during the Galacticos Era that consisted of the likes of Roberto Carlos, Raul, Luis Figo, Zinedine Zidane, and his fellow countrymen David Beckham.
He didn’t have the sweetest of starts for the Spanish side as he became a bench warmer. He became a subject of criticism for the Spanish media and Real Madrid fans due to his lack of form. He scored his first goal for Real Madrid against Dynamo Kyiv in a Champions League match that ended 1-0. Owen appeared 45 times for the Spanish side and ended up scoring 16 goals out of which he started only 26 of them. He had the highest ratio of goals scored to minutes played in the league. He scored 13 La Liga goals that season.
Owen scored in an El Clasico win against Barcelona by 4-2. His first La Liga goal was against Valencia where he scored the winning goal and the match ended 1-0. Following the signings of Robinho and Julio Baptista, it seemed imminent that he would return to EPL.
Journey at Newcastle United:
On 24th August 2005, Owen joined Newcastle United for a club-record signing fee of £16.8 million. Owen wanted to ensure more playing time, as the FIFA World Cup 2006 was knocking at the door and the selection was coming up. He signed a four-year deal. He was injured in the pre-season training and missed few of the opening matches, but scored against Blackburn Rovers on his second appearance in a 3-0 win. Owen scored his first hat-trick for Newcastle against West Ham in a 4-2 win and it was a perfect hat-trick.
On 31st December, He got injured in a match against Spurs where he broke his metatarsal bone and was out for the rest of the season and returned to pitch on 29th April, but again injured himself and became unavailable till the last day of the season.
During the FIFA World Cup 2006, he injured his ACL in the first minute of the group stage match against Sweden and It led him to stay away from football for at least one year. It inflamed the club vs country liability and a tussle went on between FA and Newcastle United. After the damage to his ACL, the thigh and groin injury persisted and made him an injury-prone player. In his 3 year venture at Newcastle, He only appeared 71 times and scored 26 times.
Owen left Newcastle in 2009 and joined Manchester United in 2009 that created huge hate and dissatisfaction among the Liverpool fans
Moving to Old Trafford and winning the first Premier League Trophy:
On 3rd July 2009, Owen joined the Red Devils for a two-year deal. Owen was offered the prestigious number 7 shirt which was vacated by Cristiano Ronaldo as he moved to Real Madrid. Owen made his league debut for United as a substitute against Birmingham in 1-0 win. On 22nd August, He scored his first goal in a United shirt against Wigan Athletic in 5-0 win. Owen scored his first goal in Old Trafford in a Manchester Derby that too on the sixth minute of the stoppage time to give United a 4-3 win.
Owen scored his first hat-trick in an away 3-1 win against Vfl Wolfsburg in the Champions League. He was again injured in a league match against Aston Villa in a 2-1 win, where he scored the first goal and had to be substituted at 42nd minute and it led to rule him out for the rest of the season.
In 2010-11 season, Owen scored his first league goal in a 2-2 draw against Bolton Wanderers where he scored the equalising goal. Sir Alex Ferguson termed him as one of the important members of the team but he again suffered from a groin injury. As an English player you grow up dreaming of the Premiership medal and trophy and it was the first time he got the taste of it as United drew the penultimate game of the season against Blackburn Rovers by 1-1.
Owen extended his contract by one year more and stayed at United. He scored a brace in the first game of the season against Leeds United in a League Cup third-round match that helped United progress to the third round. On 2nd November, He started the UCL match against Otelul Galati but was substituted early due to thigh injury and it imminently became his last match for the Red Devils. On 17th May 2012, he announced that he would be leaving Manchester United at the end of the season.
Last years of his Career:
Owen joined Stoke City on 4th September where he was handed the number 10 jersey. He made his debut in a 1-1 draw against Manchester City. His season didn’t last long as he picked up a hamstring injury. Owen scored the only goal for Stokes on 19th January 2013 in a 3-1 defeat against Swansea City which helped him reach 150 Premier League goals. On 19th March, He announced his retirement from professional football after the season ends. Owen made his final appearance as a substitute on 19th May 2013 against Southampton.
Michael Owen is the fifth highest goalscorer for England with 40 goals from his 89 appearances. He is the second-highest goalscorer for the Roaring Lions, just behind Wayne Rooney. He played in five major tournaments for England namely: 1998,2002,2006 FIFA World Cup and the 2000,2004 Euro Cup. He scored in four out of the five above-mentioned tournaments making him the only player to achieve this feat. He will always be remembered for his wonder goal where he single-handedly destroyed the Argentinian defence in 1998 World Cup to score past Carlos Roya. In 2013 that goal was voted as the third greatest goal in England’s history.
He became the youngest English player to take part in the World Cup when he came on as a substitute vs Tunisia. In the following match, England lost to Romania by 2-1 and the goal was scored by Owen which marked him the youngest English player to do so.
Michael Owen got engaged to Louise Bonsall, his school mate and They both got engaged on 14th February 2004 and married on 24th June 2005. Mr. and Mrs. Owen have four children namely, Gemma Rose, James Michael, Emily May, and Jessica. Owen owns a helicopter named Eurocopter Dauphin. He owns several cars and enjoys gambling and horse racing. He became ambassadors of many companies like Nestle, Persil, Swiss watchmaking company Tissot, and car manufacturing company Jaguar and He was also selected as a cover athlete of Pro Evolution Soccer 2008. In January 2018, he participated in And They’re Off! in an aid of Sport Relief and he won the episode. He has hung up his boots and has become a football pundit.
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