In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Michael Owen had the footballing world at his feet.
With Liverpool, the lightning-quick striker was virtually unstoppable and his stats are proof of just how good he was on Merseyside.
In 297 games with the Reds from his late teenage years up until he left for Real Madrid as a 24-year-old, Owen scored 158 goals, a quite astonishing return.
The 2000/01 season was one of the Englishman’s finest in a Liverpool shirt, his 24 goals and eight assists across all competitions helping the team with an FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup treble.
Owen’s brilliance that campaign saw him win the coveted Ballon d’Or award in 2001 and he’s the last player from a Premier League club not named Cristiano Ronaldo to secure the accolade.
But despite winning arguably football’s most prestigious individual prize at the age of just 21, Owen’s career overall is still firmly in the ‘what if?’ category.
A catalogue of serious injuries meant we never saw anything close to the best of the striker on a regular basis after his departure from Liverpool in 2004.
By the time he was just 33 years of age, Owen called time on his days as a professional footballer following a rather uninspiring stint at Stoke City, where he mostly warmed the bench on match days.
It was certainly a fall from grace and back in 2018, Owen spoke honestly and emotionally about how he went from a Ballon d’Or winner to struggling for game time under Tony Pulis.
Check out the incredible segment from BT Sport’s ‘Premier League Tonight’ programme here…
Video: Owen on his journey from Ballon d’Or winner to Stoke’s bench
Fair play, Michael.
At the start of the video, Owen explains how much more football he played as a youngster compared to the likes of Wayne Rooney, which perhaps resulted in him picking up muscle injury after muscle injury later on in life.
Overall, the footage above is seriously powerful and a stern reminder of two things. Firstly, that the sport of football can be truly unforgiving – and secondly, Owen’s career is seriously underrated in the present day.
The recency bias that’s commonplace in the modern world means that many younger football fans don’t appreciate just how good of a player he was in his peak years with Liverpool and the England national team.
Owen was lightning-quick, could dribble past anyone and was up there among the best finishers on the planet.
In our eyes, he will always be a legendary footballing figure.