Contrary to belief, at the peak of his career, Owen was a once-in-a-lifetime player. Moreover, throughout the modern era of English football, few players have been able to generate as much excitement as the Chester-born striker. So, why is he underappreciated by English football fans?
The Prolific Poacher Reached the Very Top
During his international career, the now 40-year-old boasted a scoring record of 40 goals in 89 appearances, which, since then, few have been able to match. However, it was Owen’s form at Liverpool that quickly elevated him to superstar status so early in his career. According to Transfermarkt, in 297 Premier League matches for the Reds, the five-foot-eight goalscorer found the net 158 times, while also providing 32 assists.
Moreover, it’s a testament to Owen’s abilities in the early stages of his career that he finished as Liverpool’s top scorer for seven consecutive years between 1997 and 2004. Impressively, it was this star-studded form that saw a 21-year-old Owen claim the Ballon d’Or, one of the most prestigious individual awards in football, back in 2001 ahead of Raul and Oliver Khan, respectively. In reaching the sport’s pinnacle, the former Real Madrid striker became the first British player to win the trophy since Kevin Keegan in 1979.
However, recalling Owen’s past successes showcase how overlooked the striker is when considering England’s best players over the last three decades. While the likes of David Beckham, Frank Lampard, Steven Gerrard, and Wayne Rooney, for example, are generally remembered more fondly than the Chester-born attacker, no English player has been able to replicate Owen’s Ballon d’Or-winning achievement.
Club Rivalries Have Hindered His Reputation
In football, perhaps more so than any other top-level sport, hindsight can be extremely beneficial. As touched on above, since retiring, few English football fans appear to hold Owen in high regard, albeit aside from his spectacular solo goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup. Sadly for the now 40-year-old pundit, he’s become something of a victim of recent bias, with his teenage-goalscoring form being more consistent than the likes of Alan Shearer, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Thierry Henry.
Aside from injuries, which played a crucial role in impacting Owen’s top-level longevity, the former Newcastle striker has developed the unenviable title of playing through a career lacking in identity because of his unique career path. Despite his contributions at Merseyside, Owen’s departure to Real Madrid negatively affected his relationship with the Anfield faithful, who booed their former striker when he returned with Newcastle later in his career.
However, it was the 2001 Ballon d’Or winner’s penultimate move that had the most significant impact on his reputation within the footballing world. Upon signing a two-year deal with Manchester United, who, prior to the suspension of the league this season, were among the favourites to qualify for the Champions League with bookmakers such as Betfair being one of the football betting sites to place them so, Liverpool’s love affair with Owen appeared to have fizzled out.
A Tainted End to an Award-Winning Career
Ultimately, despite himself claiming that he has no regrets, Owen has also made no secret of his desire to return to Anfield one year after leaving the Merseyside club for Real Madrid in 2004. Unfortunately for him, that dream return failed to materialise.
Although we’ll never know how a transfer back to Liverpool would have affected Owen’s reputation, it can only be assumed that he would still be held in high regard by a vast amount of the club’s support.
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