ONCE MICHAEL OWEN famously made statues of the Argentina defence and fired home for England during the 1998 World Cup at the age of just 18, he had announced himself on the world stage . . . and now he’s a Stoke City player after completing his free transfer to the Britannia Stadium this summer.
It will be difficult for that fact to sink in with Potters fans: the recruitment of a player who, since that famous night in Saint-Étienne, has earned the Premier League Golden Boot twice, played as part of Real Madrid’s famous ‘Galacticos’ and been named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.
On top of all that, Owen was crowned European Footballer of the Year in 2001 – he becomes the second winner of the Ballon d’Or to represent Stoke City after Sir Stanley Matthews won the inaugural award in 1956 while playing for Blackpool.
Yet trophies and personal accolades only tell half the story for a man who’s scored goals prolifically since he was old enough to kick a football.
Born in Chester to a former professional footballer father, Owen was always a destined for a career in the beautiful game after he smashed Ian Rush’s record for Deeside Area Primary School by scoring an incredible 97 goals in one season.
It may be too much expect a similar return from the 32-year-old for Stoke this season! However, one thing you’re guaranteed with Michael Owen on the pitch is a goal threat.
He signed his first professional contract with Liverpool on his 17th birthday, soon after leading the Club’s Under-18s to victory over West Ham United in the FA Youth Cup.
He scored on his debut against Wimbledon late in the 1996/97 season, and after an injury to lead striker Robbie Fowler the following summer, he played a starring role for the Reds, winning his first Golden Boot and being selected in Glenn Hoddle’s England squad for that summer’s World Cup.
After retaining the top scorer award the following year, 1999/00 proved to be a difficult one as he missed two thirds of the campaign through injury as Liverpool failed to qualify for the European Cup.
They certainly made up for it in 2001 – Owen was influential as Gerard Houllier’s side won a cup treble, bringing home the FA Cup, UEFA Cup and the League Cup.
When his time at Anfield came to an end in 2004, he had netted 118 times in the league in just 216 appearances – a ratio better than a goal every two matches.
He completed a sensational £8m move to Real Madrid, but his time in Spain was difficult as he was restricted to mainly substitute appearances. He still managed to score 13 La Liga goals, though, before moving to Newcastle United for £16.8m in August 2005.
His period at St James’s Park riddled by injuries, predominantly one picked up in the 2006 World Cup for England against Sweden which incurred a legal battle over Owen’s wages between the club and the FA.
He still managed 26 goals in 72 league games for the Magpies, but was released in 2009 before being picked up in the shock move of that summer by Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United.
As with Madrid, opportunities at Manchester United were mainly limited to being used off the bench, although he made a huge impact with the supporters when he scored the winner in the derby against Manchester City – a game that finished 4-3 to the Red Devils.
He scored a hat-trick against Wolfsburg in the Champions League too, his first since 2005, but was ultimately released at the end of last season after the emergence of Danny Welbeck at Old Trafford.
Owen’s England career will forever be associated with that goal in France, but he has so far netted 39 others in 89 caps, although he last played for his country back in 2008.