How times have changed for Michael Owen. The former undisputed golden boy of English football, feared by defenders throughout the World and lauded by Europe’s biggest clubs, is, if growing rumours are to be believed, about to announce his retirement.
Owen’s injury-plagued stay at Newcastle has proved to be a nightmare, with the player a mere shadow of his former self even when officially ‘match fit’ and raring to go.
The striker’s searing pace is long gone, never to return, and his explosive arrival on the global stage at the 1998 World Cup, with that wonder goal against Argentina, now a distant memory.
Owen was only 19 during France 98, with the World literally at his feet, and the whole of football purred with bold predictions of him blasting Sir Bobby Charlton’s England goalscoring record aside and easily amassing over 120 caps.
Eleven years on and fast approaching 30, Owen has 40 international goals under his belt (four short of Charlton) and 89 caps, but isn’t in Fabio Capello’s plans.
Why retire now?
Owen’s current contract at Newcastle has come to an end and the Magpie’s are in no position to renew it at £120,000 a week. £50,000 is thought to be more realistic. However, money shouldn’t be a major concern, as the player was listed in the 2008 Sunday Times Rich List as having a £41m fortune.
Perhaps the lack of feeling wanted by a top club is a factor. Would any of the ‘big four’ be prepared to gamble on the player’s fitness?
Despite the retirement rumours, several clubs are reported to be more than willing to sign the player, including Everton, his boyhood heroes.
Everton need to strengthen their attacking options, with Yakubu still recovering from injury and Louis Saha always likely to spend long periods on the treatment table.
Aston Villa and Manchester City are also being touted as possible suitors, with both clubs prepared to offer Owen a game-by-game deal.
West Ham and Spurs have been mentioned, but the player is unlikely to be interested in a move to London.
If Michael Owen does decide to retire it will be a sad day for English football and there will always be speculation about just how successful his career would have been had he remained injury-free.