Catch Seventy7

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Michael Owen Deserves Chance to Reclaim Status Among World’s Best

He’s not even 30, yet some newspapers are already (falsely) printing suggestions he is contemplating retirement this summer. But Michael Owen still has a lot to offer on the football pitch, and he intends to get the chance to show it…

Owen: A fan of Pro Evo, is a friend of Catch Seventy7's...

Owen: Any fan of Pro Evo, is a friend of Catch Seventy7's...

Much has been made in the past week of Michael Owen’s almost unprecedented decision to authorise the distribution of a 32-page sales brochure detailing, in quite some depth, why clubs around Europe should bid for the England international’s services.

To many, such a move has been taken as an example of the desperation Owen feels for his professional future, another indication of how the once prodigious young striker’s career has quickly deteriorated.

After all, many seem to believe that his career is all but over. Retirement, as one daily newspaper was foolish enough to print, seems imminent.

In reality, the brochure is there to counter exactly such pre-conceptions.

The execution might not be quite there (indeed, some of it is cringe-inducing), but the idea should not be dismissed out of hand. In recent years, as the wealth within football has reached astronomical levels, we have come to expect out of contract footballers to be courted extensively by interested clubs, rather than the other way round. But in this current economic climate no one, not even footballers, should be criticised for doing something unpredictable in an attempt to make themselves stand out to potential employers.

Lest we forget, Owen is only 29-years-old — an age where, so the consensus says, most strikers will be in their prime. He has played for Liverpool, Real Madrid, and Newcastle United — and scored goals at every stop.

At international level, the highest level of the game, Owen has scored 40 goals in 89 appearances for his country, a record that compares well with the very best in history.

Since the turn of the millennium (when injuries began to suck the momentum from his career), Owen has notched 132 goals in 288 games across all competitions and levels. This is a record that not only deserves respect, but also should ensure that top-flight club deems him deserving of employment.

Unfortunately, key men within football seem to have short memories.

“When I scored a goal in the World Cup as an 18-year-old, people six months later were writing me off saying, ‘It’s a one-off’,” Owen said this week. “Then you score a hat-trick against Germany in Munich and win five trophies in a year with Liverpool, and a year later, they will write you off.”

Unfortunately, Owen’s reputation has been diminished greatly not only by his predilection for injuries, but also by Newcastle United’s shocking decline. But just as Owen cannot honestly be blamed for the Magpies’ relegation (not being on the pitch for much of the campaign was hardly his choice), equating his abilities to the performance of the club that pays his wages is hardly fair.

The voice of criticism is often louder than the voice of praise, but that doesn’t mean it should be listened to more.

“Everyone will keep quiet for six months, and then I will have two or three bad games and they will say, ‘He’s about to turn 30, his legs are going’,” Owen lamented. “There will be something, there always is — this country is renowned for it. Someone will always criticise you, no matter what.”

Certainly, Owen is not above criticism. But anyone who genuinely believes that England’s 2010 World Cup squad will be better off without a fully fit Michael Owen is deluded in the extreme. Fans of the national team should be hoping that he finds a top-flight club suited to his talents.

Owen’s contribution in a friendly against Argentina, albeit nearly four years ago, should prove a poignant reminder of the impact Owen can have at international level. The then 25-year-old scored twice with his head in the last five minutes to grab an exhilarating 3-2 win for the Three Lions.

But both goals came about not as a result of Owen’s quickness of movement, but instead due to his quickness of thought — a quality that, far from diminishing with age, should actually improve.

In his fleeting performances with Newcastle this term, Owen demonstrated that he still possesses a lightning fast footballing brain. What he lacked, perhaps understandably, was match sharpness.

Owen has a proven goalscoring record at all levels of the game — the only thing that is unproven (and, alongside his wage demands, deterring potential suitors) is his fitness. If that is not a problem by May next year, then Capello would be brave to leave him out.

As a pure goalscorer, Owen is still the superior of any other English striker currently playing the game. His presence in England’s World Cup squad would add another arrow to Capello’s armoury that would otherwise be absent.

Few clubs in the Premiership can currently claim they possess a striker with the clinical ability to put the ball in the back of the net. Few strikers in the world possess that ability. In this current economic climate, where transfer fees from abroad are inflated by an unfavourable exchange rate, now more than ever is the time to buy British.

And with Owen, there will not even be a transfer fee involved.

Of course there is a risk, but as with all risks there could also be great reward. If a club can financially protect themselves against Owen’s susceptibility to injury (base the contract on appearances, or goals) then there are but a handful of clubs that shouldn’t test the waters to see if a deal can be done.

“It remains to be seen where I am going to go. There are plenty of clubs that would interest me,” Owen said. “There has been a lot of interest from abroad and quite a bit from home as well, but obviously the Premier League is where I feel I belong.”

With the aid of his brochure, Owen is hoping a club that interests him will come out and declare the feeling is mutual. Either way, he is certainly not prepared to turn his back on football just yet:

“I will come back, I will play well and score goals and do all these things once more,” he said.

It would take a brave man to bet against it.

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June 26, 2009 - Posted by | Sport, World Football |

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