A gamblers spirit, it is said, is a necessary part of all human endeavour. For a man who by all accounts is a fan of a little gamble, which some, most notably the outspoken Wigan chairman Dave Whelan, have accused of him being too focused on, Michael Owen must appreciate that he must play the odds and take the plunge for his next bet, which could well determine how English football remembers one of it’s favourite sons.
Michael Owen, as a goalscorer and a player, may not be the player he once was, but then he was one of the finest strikers of his generation. It is easy for his recent travails to muddy the waters in that regard.
Not many strikers can boast a record quite like Owen’s, a former European footballer of the year, he played for two of Europe’s finest teams, boasts a career record of 157 goals in 271 starts-less than a goal every other game, and he has thus far scored 40 international goals – hardly the record of a nobody.
Yet that is the situation Owen finds himself in this summer. Out of contract this summer, with his current club Newcastle unwilling to renew his expensive, and hastily arranged contract, Owen has hardly been flooded with offers.
His options have declined so markedly that Owen’s advisors have assembled a dossier, designed to showcase the benefits of signing a player described as “fully fit and capable of playing at Europe’s highest level for several years”, a move which has left Owen’s situation open to ridicule.
The problem Owen’s advisors have is that, regardless of what they put in a glossy brochure, it cannot hide the brutal reality. Owen as a player has a record few could argue with, but it is a record based almost solely on past realities, and though his goal-scoring record at Newcastle was fairly decent (26 goals in 58 league games), he cut a forlorn and ineffective presence for much of his time on Tyneside.
Hence why Owen now stands at the crossroads of his career. One of Europe’s major teams, one guaranteed Champions League football-where Owen sees himself, won’t take a chance on a player who at 29 has little re-sale value, and has not proven himself on the highest stage consistently for at least three years.
So what are his options? Talk of interest from the likes of Aston Villa and Everton has appeared consistently, yet there has been little concrete, and whether Owen would fit into a Villa team who rely on pace, something Owen now lacks, or an Everton team who play with only one striker, remains to be seen.
Perhaps it is a team lower in the league, Hull City have declared an interest, though after his Newcastle experience-and relegation is nice for no-one, would Owen be willing to join a team who came perilously close to replacing his current team in the Championship. While other interest from the nether regions of the Premiership could come in the likes of Sunderland (imagine the furore on Tyneside) or Stoke City, but once again there is little concrete.
Then perhaps he could go abroad, seek to finish the unfinished business from his time at Real Madrid, where he was prolific but unable to force his way ahead of Ronaldo or Raul, two of the finest strikers in football history. Owen himself has admitted that there is interest from abroad, and it is certainly an option for a player who enjoys a good reputation internationally.
Whatever option he chooses, Owen must appreciate that this is a gamble that has to pay off for him, else a glorious career could finish with an inglorious conclusion.