Friday 25th May 2012
Where will Michael Owen’s next destination be? Does anyone even care? It is a situation that intrigues me at least. ‘‘I have been playing and training with top players all my life and that was one of the attractions in going to Man Utd,’’ he said after being released from the club last week. ‘‘We will wait to see where that is. If it is not the Premier League then I may look farther afield. I don’t think I will be dropping into the Championship.’’ So that’s that ruled out. But in light of his fall in stature as one of the world’s most feared strikers, his statement has a tinge of arrogance about it.
When he mentioned playing with top players, he wasn’t just referring to the crème de la crème of the top divisions as when he transferred to Newcastle United from Real Madrid in the summer of 2005 they had just finished the previous campaign in 14th place, so it is certain that he wouldn’t be averse to joining a side such as Stoke City or Swansea City in the twilight of his career.
But why not a team from the second tier? Does he feel the service he has given Manchester United, where he interacted with the club’s medical personnel more than the playing staff, making only six league starts in three years, is worthy of a highly paid contract in the Premiership?
There was banter on Twitter between Owen and Southampton legend, Matthew Le Tissier, who ‘advised’ the former United man to head to the newly promoted Saints as the South Coast is ‘better for your muscles.’ Owen replied that he is, ‘‘open to offers!!!’’ The three exclamation marks could mean anything from being excited by the prospect or that the proposition is somewhat ridiculous because they do not have the ‘top players’ that he requires.
How about another recently promoted side in the form of West Ham United? Their manager, Sam Allardyce has had him under his wing before albeit for only eight months during his ill-fated spell with Newcastle whilst the Hammers have had a reputation in the past for acquiring players who are past their best sell-by-date (from Jimmy Greaves to Ian Wright and Teddy Sheringham to name but many). So that could work.
They could do with another goal-getter, but is injury prone Owen really the answer? Ricardo Vaz Te has the potential and looks like he could be an accomplished Premiership striker, but Carlton Cole has not exactly lit up the league in his previous excursions, and only hit 15 goals in the Championship last term. So another forward is definitely needed for the Irons whether it’s a veteran such as Owen or a youngster from the youth set-up. If he can steer clear of long-term injuries then he would be most definitely worth a punt for a free, but it seems highly unlikely that he would play regularly due to his ravaged hamstring.
Can he still do a decent job for a Premiership side? Is he being arrogant in refusing to drop a division to ply his trade? When he plays he is often effective – as last season’s League Cup tie with Leeds United proved when he scored two goals – but that is when he plays, which is about as often as a dignified wannabe Big Brother contestant. Opportunities were limited at Old Trafford due to injuries and the fact that he had the likes of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov ahead of him in the pecking order, but when he was called upon, he usually did the business.
The winner against Manchester City in stoppage time nearly three years ago, and an equalising goal in the League Cup final against Aston Villa that set United on their way to a 2-1 victory, showed he could still be a big time player, although he was taken off soon after in the latter game because of an injury. It is the frequency of his bodily mishaps coupled with high wages that are sure to put off some budding suitors. 18 starts in three years in all competitions for the Red Devils tells its ow(e)n story, which means many clubs will only have him on a pay-as-you-play basis.
He may look at other players receiving the same ridiculous amounts of money and feel he warrants something in the same region, but considering how delicate his body is, he should be willing to take a drop in wages and a division, and be grateful for the chance that any side may give him.
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