The 2010 World Cup in South Africa next summer probably represents Manchester United’s striker Michael Owen’s last chance to feature in a major tournament for England. At present the chances that Fabio Capello will pick Owen in his squad look slim for the former Liverpool, Real Madrid and Newcastle marksman, as a steadily declining career hit by many long-term injuries has led to some fans, especially those in the North East, feeling that he’s past it.
It feels like Michael Owen has been around for ages, he broke onto the scene over two years for Liverpool and his Liverpool and England form culminated in him being named the European footballer of the Year in 2000. The most memorable moment of his career remains the top-class goal he scored against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup when he was just 18, and his club and international scoring ratios remain very impressive. He sits fourth on the list of all-time England top goal scorers with 40 goals in 88 caps, but will he be able to add to that tally?
Owen spent just one unsuccessful season at Real Madrid and couldn’t leave quick enough. A £16 million transfer to Newcastle followed, and by paying him wages of £110,000 a week it was probably the biggest waste of money by the Toon ever, and that’s saying something with their questionable record in the transfer market. Injury after injury led to many Newcastle fans calling him a mercenary and a perceived lack of effort during Newcastle’s relegation last season was the final straw, with the majority of the Toon Army glad to see the back of him in the summer.
As a player Owen now offers teams little in general play, as his pace is now not what it once was and all he has left to give is his goal scoring ability. In the summer his management company sent out a 34 page brochure advertising him to potential clubs. It contained the selling point “Owen: the athlete, the ambassador, the icon,” the first of which is debatable, and this sign of desperation showed how the future of his career was on a knife edge.
Just when it looked like Hull was his best option, Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson signed him to many people’s surprise. Whilst his winner against rivals Man City ensured him a lasting place in United fans’ hearts, he has only scored two goals this season in just six starts and isn’t exactly their first choice striker. At the moment his World Cup chances look slim, as he doesn’t feature in Capello’s plans and the Italian manager may well be part of a group of people who feel that Michael Owen is past it.
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