In a career that’s been blighted by injury, former England striker Michael Owen has continuously shown that he’s got an eye for goal.
Whether it’s playing domestically in the Premier League or La Liga, on the European stage in the old UEFA Cup or Champions League, or on the international stage for the Three Lions, Owen has consistently performed at the highest level.
And yet, this great striker’s career could be coming to a premature end, with the 32-year-old currently without a club and unwilling to drop down to the Championship.
"If a good opportunity doesn’t come my way then so be it. At this stage of my career it has to be something that I’m going to enjoy doing," he wrote on Twitter.
"Not being disrespectful when saying I wouldn’t play in The Championship. Always said I wouldn’t drop down the leagues like some have done.
"I know I can still bang them in at the top level. I proved that nearly every time I played for Manchester United. At 32, still got a few years in me."
With his track record at the top level, it’s a major surprise that only Stoke City have been linked with a move for Owen so far this summer following his release from Old Trafford.
The forward’s career began with a bang at Liverpool, scoring on debut against Wimbledon at the end of the 1996/97 Premier League season.
Owen would go on to become an Anfield idol, scoring 158 goals in all competitions before his exit in 2004. In that time, Owen helped the Reds to a famous cup treble, notching a vital brace in the 2-1 FA Cup final against Arsenal as a particular highlight.
He was top scorer for the club in every season from 1998 onwards, but left for Real Madrid in an £8 million move after the sacking of manager Gerard Houllier and a spell on the bench under Rafa Benitez.
His time in the Spanish capital was spent largely on the bench, but Owen found the net on a regular basis for Los Blancos, scoring 19 goals in 43 appearances, with just 15 of those as starts.
However, the arrival of Robinho and Julio Babtista signalled the end for Owen in La Liga after just a season, and he signed for Newcastle the following summer for a fee in the region of £16.8 million.
Injuries would blight Owen’s spell at St. James’ Park however, with a thigh problem in pre-season training, a broken metatarsal against Spurs and anterior cruciate ligament damage on World Cup duty with England all hampering his first two seasons with the Toon.
Under Sam Allardyce, he missed spells of action because of a hernia operation and thigh strain, and would score his next goal for the club under a new manager in the shape of Kevin Keegan.
A calf strain would hamper his progress the following year, and it turned out to be a disastrous campaign for the Magpies, with Alan Shearer returning to the club as manager at the end of the season but failing to save them from relegation.
Owen’s contract at Newcastle was up, and after declining to sign a new deal, Sir Alex Ferguson came calling in a shock move to Manchester United.
Taking the No.7 shirt vacated by Cristiano Ronaldo, the striker delivered in his debut season at Old Trafford, notably scoring the winner against Manchester City in a 4-3 classic, a hat-trick against Wolfsburg in the Champions League and the opening goal in the 2-1 League Cup final win against Aston Villa.
There were even calls for his inclusion in England’s 2010 World Cup squad, but the hamstring strain picked up at Wembley in that clash against the Villains put him out for the rest of the season, and ended his chances of playing in a sixth major international tournament.
With chances at a premium in the following seasons, Owen was limited to chances in the League and FA Cup in the main, with groin and thigh problems affecting his chances of breaking into the league side further.
After three years of service for the Red Devils, the two parties parted company on good terms, and whilst the move might not have been exactly what Ferguson wanted, he got good value for no money.
And surely that same philosophy applies for a number of other Premier League clubs who need to bolster their attacking lines before the start of the 2012/13 campaign.
There are a handful of clubs – Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea – who would have no room for Owen. Arsenal, having signed a number of forwards already this summer, would also fit into that category.
But what about the rest? Would Liverpool welcome the return of a former hero who is clearly still capable of finding the back of the net.
Everton have been linked in the past – would Owen consider the Toffees despite his links with the Reds. If it’s the only offer on the table, surely the 89-cap international can’t afford to be picky.
Newcastle are unlikely to take him back, even with a new manager in the shape of Alan Pardew, but what about the promoted clubs? Reading, Southampton and West Ham could all use the experience of Owen, even if they used him sparingly.
Spurs aren’t exactly bulging with strikers, even if Emmanuel Adebayor completes his move, whilst a case could be made for Aston Villa, QPR, Sunderland and Wigan to try and bring the player in.
Quite simply, Owen is too good to fall on the football scrapheap, and despite his previous injury record, still has a couple of years in the tank.
He believes it, and hopefully he can convince a Premier League manager likewise.
A Michael Owen in full flight is worth watching - as the footage below prooves...
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