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Owen, Michael

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MICHAEL OWEN 1997-2004

by Alex Woo

Date of Birth - 14/12/79
Nationality - English

Position - Striker
Games - 297
Goals - 158

Club Hons (Lpool) - FA Youth Cup 95/96, FA Cup 00/01, UEFA Cup 00/01, League Cup 00/01 & 02/03, European Super Cup 2001, Charity Shield 2001
Personal Hons - PFA Young Player of the Year 1998, Ballon d'Or 2001
International Hons - 89 England Caps, 40 Goals
Other Clubs - Real Madrid, Newcastle United

When a 17 year old Michael Owen made his debut away at Wimbledon at the end of the 1997 season, it immediately became clear just what a special talent Liverpool had at their disposal. A debut goal was the first of many that Michael scored for The Reds, and he currently sits 7th on the all time goalscorers chart, with a magnificent return of 158 goals in 297 appearances.

In MO's first full season, his deadly combination of blistering pace and predatory instincts saw him score a remarkable 23 goals, at the age of 18. What followed that summer, propelled him to stardom on the world stage, when he was at the time the youngest player to both play for, and score for England. His performances, and more importantly his goals (including a quite memorable individual goal against Argentina) earned him worldwide acclaim.

From then on, Owen would virtually guarantee Liverpool at least 20 goals a season (except a largely injury plagued 99/00 campaign, in which he only scored 12). Forming lethal partnerships with the likes of Robbie Fowler, and later Emile Heskey, Michael was the spearhead of an attack that under Gérard Houllier, created history in the 00/01 season.

Owen was instrumental is helping Liverpool win the treble in that season. His quick fire double in the last 10 minutes of the FA Cup Final against Arsenal, snatched the trophy from the Gunners, who probably deserved to win on the balance of play. The final is commonly known as 'The Michael Owen Final'.

Along with his inspiring form for The Reds that year, MO also bagged a historic hat trick, in Englands 5-1 drubbing of rivals Germany. His performances for club and country that season earned him the 2001 Ballon d'Or award. Owen is the only Liverpool player who has been voted the best player in Europe.

Michael did start to struggle with injuries, with his groins and his hamstrings causing him trouble over the next. As a player who's pace was a large part of his game, he did at times suffer from barren spells of form as he was returning from injuries. The term "Form is temporary, class is permanent.", has often been repeated in Owen's career.

As Liverpool struggled under the last two seasons of Houllier's reign, Owen became disillusioned with life at Liverpool, and the lure of Europe's top clubs was extremely appealing. In 2004, shortly after Rafa Benitez became the new manager, Owen moved to Real Madrid for a measly £8m fee as he only had a year left on his contract. Antonio Nunez also made the switch to Anfield as part of the deal.

A season after Owen swapped Merseyside for Madrid, Liverpool had been crowned European Champions for the first time in 21 years, and Real had ended the season without a trophy, talk was rife of Owen returning to England, with a move back to Liverpool his preferred destination.

Benitez was reluctant to meet Madrid's asking price of £16m, especially considering he had just sold Owen a season earlier, for half of that fee. In the end, Newcastle United swooped, and Owen returned to England.

Since then, Owen has unfortunately struggled with injuries. An anterior cruciate ligament tear in his knee whilst playing in the World Cup with England ruled him out for the best part of a year, then constant other injuries have made MO a shadow of the player he once was. However, throughout all of this, his goals to game ratio is still impressive.

The circumstances in which Owen parted company with Liverpool seems to have tarnished the memories many fans have of Owen. But when you look back on all Michael did for this club, the goals he scored, he should be remembered as a true legend of the club, and one of the Academy's best success stories.

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