by Dave Usher for ESPN
Liverpool travel to Stoke City this weekend as the club that launched Michael Owen's career takes on the side where it all ended for him. Owen achieved some truly great things in his career, scoring goals for fun and winning plenty of trophies while playing for three of the biggest clubs in the world. Yet he is not truly embraced by the fans of any club he ever played for, particularly Liverpool.
Owen also had spells at Real Madrid, Newcastle United and Manchester United of course, but Liverpool are the club with which he is most closely associated. After exploding onto the scene as a jet-heeled teen, Owen went on to achieve a great deal in his time at Anfield, both in terms of team success and personal accolades, not least when he won the Ballon d'Or in 2001 after helping Liverpool achieve a historical cup treble. That season alone should have ensured that Owen never had to buy himself a drink on Merseyside ever again, yet if you were to ask most Liverpool fans to name their ten least favourite former players, Owen's name would make an awful lot of those lists.
Few Kopites have any affection left for their former striker these days, and views on Owen tend to vary between mild indifference to utter contempt. Personally, I'm at the "indifference" end of the scale as I have far too many fond memories to be able to bring myself to truly dislike Owen, although I fully understand how others can. The perception of Owen is of a self-centred, career-driven individual who never seemed to care too much about any club he played for, not even Liverpool with whom he enjoyed the best days of his career.
Rightly or wrongly, many fans suspected that Owen was more concerned with his international career and his "brand" than he was with Liverpool Football Club. Despite having come up through the club's junior ranks, he wasn't seen as being as much of a "Red" as the likes of Jamie Carragher, Robbie Fowler and Steven Gerrard, and as a result, was never really held in the same esteem despite always giving his best on the field. The way his career path went in comparison to his three pals suggests that the fans were right to doubt his commitment to the cause. Acting in the best interests of "Team Owen" may have paid off in terms of his resume, medal haul and bank balance, but as the Black Eyed Peas famously asked, "where is the love?".
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