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Would Dalglish be serious about Michael Owen?

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Would Michael Owen be welcomed back at Liverpool FC?The day is 30th June 1998. An 18 year old adeptly controls the ball before sprinting past the first defender. A couple of step overs do for the second defender, before a powerful finish into the far top corner. England lead Argentina by two goals to one in the World Cup second round, and Michael Owen lays down his first marker of greatness. A goal that still crops up on highlight reels and compilations, a goal that epitomised Owen’s blistering pace and instinctive finishing.

It is the moment that is often cited as Michael Owen’s first moment of distinction, but that would be insulting his first season at Liverpool, in which he finished Golden Boot winner, even though he only turned 18 midway through it. His prodigious rise continued, winning the Golden Boot for a second successive season in 1998/1999, and he lead Liverpool to five trophies in 2000/01, including the late equaliser, then winner in the FA Cup final against Arsenal. Various individual accolades found their way to him, though club success was limited. After three more seasons at Liverpool, he left to join the Galactico era at Real Madrid.

His career faltered thereafter, through little fault of his own, but Liverpool fans will see it as sweet justice for walking out on the newly incumbent Rafa Benitez (who would go on to win the Champions League in his first season). Steve McManaman before and Xabi Alonso since have also left for Madrid, but neither of them left as bitter a taste as Owen did, who purposefully ran down his contract and left for a meagre, appalling, slap-in-the-face £8million. Evidently Owen couldn’t read, because you really would have to have been illiterate to not have seen the back pages of every newspaper in the country the previous summer, which all displayed different, candid versions of ‘PEREZ PROMISES TO BRING £50MILLION OWEN TO BERNABEU’.

He also suffers from memory loss, shown by when he decided to sign for Manchester United after jumping the relegated Newcastle ship. He must have forgotten about his 12 years with Liverpool, where an innate and unreasonable hatred of Manchester United is instilled at a young age. This was truly unforgiveable, especially for someone idolised as he was. 9 goals in 31 games was a good return for a season filled with mostly cameo appearances, and United’s attacking style of play combined well with his movement and finishing. The highlight of the season was a clinical 96th minute winner to down City in the derby.

Dimitar Berbatov awaking from a prolonged slumber, and Javier Hernandez doing a fantastic imitation of Owen himself 10 years ago, has meant that the real Owen has been restricted to 14 appearances this season, with 4 goals. It’s clear that he is surplus to requirements at Old Trafford. With David N’Gog being relegated to the reserves under Kenny Dalglish, various rumours have surfaced linking him with Liverpool.

Signing Michael Owen is an attractive prospect in many ways. He would come free, and would probably accept lower wages than he is on at Manchester United. Owen would come knowing and accepting that he will sit on the bench. Steven Gerrard and Jamie Carragher would be happy to see him back. He still has that undeniable class in front of goal, and his seasoned anticipation would be great for both Suarez’s creativity and Carroll’s knockdowns. It would give him a chance to make up with the fans. The second coming of Robbie Fowler was also relatively successful, setting a good precedent. His experience would be useful to the younger players, and by all accounts he is a likeable person.

However, he is a much changed player from the youngster who won the Ballon D’or ten years ago. He no longer has the acceleration or speed that made him frightening. Though he does have good skills inside the box, he is not Ruud van Nistlerooy by any means. He is still easy to push off the ball, and will be of no use at all when Liverpool are trying to contain and counter attack. One wonders if his playing time would restrict the potential development of Dani Pacheco. He is regularly injured, and has little stamina anymore. And though he is cheap, it’s not as if Liverpool lack money.

As a footballing prospect, he is nevertheless appealing. Any reluctance from the fans to accept him doesn’t relate to Owen the player, but to Owen the man. Owen the traitorous, treacherous man.

It will be very hard for Michael Owen himself to convince the fans to accept his return, but he may find some sympathy in King Kenny. Though Dalglish’s return was accompanied by fanfare, optimism and joy, Owen’s potential return may well feature boos, protests and a chorus of disapproval. Despite this, such is the legendary status of Dalglish at Liverpool that any decision that he makes in the matter will be accepted by the Kop, personal grudge against Owen or not.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Waldorf

    April 29, 2011 at 3:13 PM

    ‘Would Kenny…’ in one word ‘no’. Michael’s best days are behind him.

    One other point though – I take exception to the line about Michael running down his contract and it being a slap in the face. Steve McManaman left for free, Michael at least went for 8million. SM’s performances during his final season at Liverpool were woeful. MO, despite clearly being unhappy at how things were going at LFC, still scored the goals that secured our Champions League qualification &… the rest is history there. I can remember a night at Anfield when George announced that MO had scored for Real and a cheer went round. I think few people begrudged MO his move given the poor state of LFC at the time. The problems started when he joined Newcastle, with the suggestion being that he hadn’t pushed Real enough to secure a return to LFC. Still, whatever his subsequent faults… and let’s face it being in league with the Devil is a pretty major character flaw… Michael scored plenty of goals for us and won an FA Cup singlehanded. It’s just a pity that he never achieved his full potential in the one and only Red shirt.

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