Birthdate: 14 December 1979
Birthplace: Chester, England
Other clubs: Real Madrid (2004-05), Newcastle United (2005-09), Manchester United (2009-12), Stoke City (2012-)
Bought from: Local
Signed for LFC: Joined 1990 - Professional 18.12.1996
International debut: 11.02.1998 vs.Chile
International caps: 89/40 (60/26 at LFC) - 26.03.2008
Liverpool debut: 06.05.1997
Last appearance: 15.05.2004
Debut goal: 06.05.1997
Last goal: 15.05.2004
Contract expiry: 14.08.2004
Win ratio: 48.82% W: 145 D: 81 L: 71
Games/goals ratio: 1.88
Total games/goals opposite LFC: 6 / 0
LFC league games/goals: 216 / 118
Total LFC games/goals: 297 / 158
Terry Owen knew that his son had a gift for goals: "When he was five or six we used to take him along to the mini club, a kind of kid fun session at the Deeside Leisure Centre. There were all sorts of activities going on, trampolining, table-tennis, but all he was interested in was the football games. And his co-ordination and eye for a ball was quite exceptional for a five-year-old. Most lads of that age just toe punting the ball but Michael was a natural - he was tucking shots into the corner of the net with the side of his foot. You would have thought he was three or four years older than he was. It was remarkable." Michael supported his dad's favourites, Everton, as a lad. Terry, who played a couple of games for Everton, left it to Michael to decide: "The first club to spot him playing for Deeside was Liverpool. Then Brian Kidd came down from Manchester United and there were plenty of others. But Steve Heighway, the Liverpool youth development officer, wrote us a smashing letter and it was love at first sight for Michael, he was impressed from day one."At eight, Owen was selected for the Deeside Area Primary School's Under-11 team. At nine he was captain and and at ten he smashed Ian Rush's twenty-year record for the same team by scoring a staggering 97 goals in a single season, improving Rushie's record by 25 goals. His mother remembers: "He scored 97 in his last season and he broke Gary Speed's appearance record because he'd played in all three seasons for the 11-year-olds since he was eight." The prodigy attended the FA's School of Excellence at Lilleshall and he was soon playing for England teams from Under 15 upwards, of course breaking more scoring records with 28 goals in 20 games for the England u-15s and u-16s.
In the 1995/96 season Owen played for Liverpool's youth team even though he was still at Lilleshall. Most of the players were 18, but Owen was only 16. He scored a hat-trick against cup holders Man Utd in the quarter-finals, netting the winner in added time. Owen scored another hat-trick in a 4-2 win in the first leg of the semi against Crystal Palace. Liverpool were 3-0 down after only 50 minutes in the second leg, but Jamie Cassidy reduced the deficit. The scores were level 5-5 after 90 minutes with Owen taking control in extra-time and scoring two goals. Liverpool faced West Ham in the final, played over two legs as well. West Ham hadn't lost in 24 consecutive games, boasting future stars like Rio Ferdinand and Frank Lampard. Owen was missing from the first leg at Upton Park as he was busy scoring both goals for the English u-16 team against Turkey in the European youth finals in Austria. Jon Newby shone in his absence as Liverpool won 2-0. Owen was back for the second leg alongside teammates such as Jamie Carragher and David Thompson. Liverpool fell behind early but Owen equalized with his eleventh in five cup matches and Stuart Quinn scored the winner. Liverpool had won the FA Youth Cup for the first time in the club’s history.
Owen celebrated his seventeenth birthday by signing a professional contract and being handed a place in Roy Evans' senior squad. Steve Heighway had no doubt that a glittering career was ahead: "He is ready for whatever you throw at him; nothing fazes Michael Owen. He's ready. If the manager wants a recommendation from me, Michael gets it." Owen declared his intentions: "I've scored between 40 and 45 goals this season in 30 to 35 games and now my aim is a first-team place in the next year or so." Karl-Heinz Riedle, who prior to joining Liverpool in the summer of 1997 had never heard of Owen, joined his ever-growing fan club. "It's unbelievable when you see him play to realise that he's only 17," he said. "He's such a good player, so very quick and for his age he has excellent vision and awareness. He's a great player already and in one or two years he will become a very great player." Owen had got his first taste of first-team football in the last couple of games in 1996/97, scoring on his debut against Wimbledon. Evans’ plan was to ease the young striker into the first team but Fowler’s injury meant he was in the starting line-up in the first game of the 1997/98 season: "We said before the season started that we would take care of him, nurse him along, but he has changed all that. He wants to play all the time." Owen scored from the penalty spot in the first game of the season against the Dons again. Regular penalty taker Robbie Fowler was absent and Evans handed the responsibility to his young prodigy: "I asked him before the game if he wanted to take the penalties, and he said he did. I asked: 'Is that me pushing or you wanting?' - and he insisted he wanted to do it. But he still had to fight with Danny (Murphy) to get the ball - that's not bad confidence from a couple of kids." On 16 September Owen made his European debut against Celtic at Parkhead. Did that faze him? No, it took him only six minutes to get on the scoresheet. On 1 October 1997 Owen signed a five-year contract with Liverpool worth a basic £2.5million. His £10,000-a-week deal made him the highest paid teenager in British football. He became the youngest-ever player in the twentieth century to make his debut for England, aged 18 years and 59 days, on 11 February 1998. He was top-scorer in his first Premier League season with 18 goals, along with Dion Dublin and Chris Sutton, and voted PFA Young Player of the Year and third in the PFA Player of the Year award. Owen's incredible goal against Argentina in the World Cup in 1998 made him an international star.
"Form is temporary, class is permanent.", is a phrase that has often been repeated in Owen's career. He always delivered a fair amount of goals every season when fit. Forty-six goals in 84 matches in Owen's first two full campaigns was way above of what could be expected as the team was going through a big transition; Roy Evans stepping aside for Gerard Houllier. Owen's hamstring first gave way on 12 April 1999 against Leeds at Elland Road putting him out of action for almost five months. Owen returned to score again 20+ goals in the 2000/01 season when he was crowned the "Prince of Wales" when his two late goals against Arsenal won the FA Cup in 2001. His ongoing hamstring trouble caused concern as he was so dependent on his burst of pace. Owen crowned a memorable 12 months when he became the only Liverpool player to be voted European Footballer of the Year, in 2001, becoming the first Briton to win Ballon d'Or since Kevin Keegan in 1979. Owen received 176 points, 34 more than the formidable Raul, the Real Madrid and Spain forward. Owen was at his most prolific in the 2001/02 season with a goal in every 1.5 games and made a career-high 54 appearances in the 2002/03 when he was for the second consecutive season only two goals away from the 30 goals mark. Houllier made way for Rafa Benítez in the summer of 2004 and it also signalled the end for Owen at Liverpool. He wanted to test pastures new.
Real Madrid president, Florentine Perez, started as early as in March 2002 to woo Owen. "Owen can be one of the world's great players and the best players must play for Real Madrid." Houllier laughed off any apparent interest: "They might be able to afford Ronaldo but they cannot afford Michael Owen. For that kind of money they could only buy his left foot but he is not going anywhere. Don't ever dream that Michael is going anywhere else, even if I am reading about other clubs. Michael is Liverpool through and through and he is staying with me." In the end £8 million prized him away from Anfield to Real. "Since I was 10 I didn't just want to be a footballer, I wanted to be the best footballer in the world," Owen explained. "There are still lots of people ahead of me but if you want to get into that bracket, you have to break out of comfort zones. That is a nutshell is why I made the life changing decision to leave Liverpool for Real Madrid. I have always had a burning desire to push myself and that is why I was disappointed with some of the defeatist reaction to my transfer. I don't know if it is an English trait to settle for what you've got but I was taken aback when the first thing some people said was 'how's he going to get into the first team'. They didn't say 'fantastic, he's moving to the biggest club in the world." Thirteen goals in 20 starts was by no means a bad record in Owen's sole season at the Bernabeu but he was still a fringe player with Raul and Ronaldo firmly first choice. Owen held discussions with Liverpool but once Newcastle offered a staggering £17 million a return to the Reds was out of the question. Liverpool's Chief Executive Rick Parry could hardly believe what he was witnessing. "Michael eventually emerges three coaches later as fifth choice, on a big wage and not happy and then somebody knocks on the door and offers to double their money," Parry said. "I'm sure the first reaction was to rub their eyes in surprise. From our point of view, Michael on the right terms - certainly, but not on the wrong terms."
Newcastle in total conceded 14 goals to Michael Owen in 11 games when he was a Red so maybe it was no surprise they wanted to have him on their side! However, this risky move only delivered 26 goals in 81 League matches in four seasons. Owen scored an impressive seven goals in 11 matches in 2005/06, and had recovered in time to be selected for England duty in the 2006 World Cup. However, a serious knee-injury in the first minute of the group match against Sweden kept him out of action for almost whole of the following campaign. Owen's Newcastle contract ended on the last day of June 2009 with him leaving the relegated club to look for a new employer as a free agent. Defending Premier League champions Manchester United dramatically became Owen's third English League club to the dismay of Liverpool supporters. Few can have been surprised that Owen's high-profile and controversial move to Manchester was wrecked by injury. Owen's highlights at United were a very late winner in the Manchester derby, a Champions League hat-trick at Wolfsburg and a Premier League medal in 2011. As a free agent following his release by United in the summer of 2012, Owen did not have to conform to the normal transfer-window regulations. On 4 September 2012 the 32-year-old signed for Stoke City on a 12-month pay-as-you-play contract. In December 2012 Owen reflected on his personal website on his struggle with injuries, having seen former teammates enjoy a lengthy career into their late 30's. Owen played 316 games for club and country ahead of his twenty-fourth birthday compared with 112 by Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes (123) and David Beckham (184). "Had I been managed differently I would have been at my best for longer. As a youngster, I was considered exceptional and in many ways, that was to my detriment. While I was playing every game available to me, there was another young kid in the Liverpool Academy called Steven Gerrard who was also showing huge potential. Unlike me, who was playing 80-odd games a year, Stevie just couldn’t stay fit. I am convinced that this played to his advantage in the long run. I would play a full season with Liverpool and then I was jetting off to play for England, sometimes playing three years above my age group at the highest level.” Owen was convinced that his hamstring injury in April 1999 proved a key moment. “My body made me pay for pushing it to the limit too often. My hamstring snapped in two and it was at that point that my ability to perform unimpeded was finished. My rehabilitation was compromised due to our physio leaving the club that summer and not being replaced until the following season. With no regular medical care, a routine injury was destined to restrict me for the rest of my career. People laugh when I say that I am not naturally injury prone. It is my genuine opinion that I have become so due to overplaying at a young age, suffering an injury and then having a dreadful rehabilitation at such a critical time. I cringe when I look back on a quote I came out with after Gérard Houllier rested me for a game. 'I will rest when I'm 40', I muttered in an interview."
Liverpool as a club and Liverpool supporters as a group saw the best years of Michael Owen's life as a professional footballer. Yes, he was sometimes beset by injuries in his Anfield days but nowhere near as much as he has suffered since he left Anfield for Madrid in 2004. Despite his great personal achievements at Liverpool Owen was never quite beloved on the Kop as might be expected. From the player's point of view, he might always regret stating that he left Liverpool 'to win the big trophies', only to watch from a distance as his new club won nothing and his old club won the biggest trophy of all just a year later.