Michael Owen likes Newcastle United

Michael Owen's ordeal

Right at the beginning of the 20th matchday of the Premier League there will be a traditional encounter. For the 141st time, Newcastle United and Liverpool FC face each other in a league game (Sun., 1 p.m. in LIVE ticker and at Premiere). It's a very special game for one player: Newcastle attacker Michael Owen meets his ex-club.

"This is Anfield" - this is the inscription emblazoned on the wall of the catacombs through which the players have to pass before they step onto the lawn of the venerable Liverpool stadium.

When Michael Owen walked past this lettering for the first time and was getting ready for his league debut for the Reds, he was a tender 17 years old and looked much younger. The pants came up to above his knees and his jersey was two sizes too big.

Nevertheless: It was the start of a football career that developed explosively.

He scored 118 goals in 216 games for the Reds before his 25th birthday. As rapid as his club career was his rise in the English national team.

The rise: on the way to legend

In 1998, the 29-year-old made his debut for the Three Lions at the age of 18. Thanks to his numerous goals for Liverpool and the national team, Owen is still popularly referred to as "St. Michael" in English today.

He experienced the high point of his professional career so far in 2001. With his hat trick, he dismantled the German national team in the 5-1 triumph of the Three Lions in the World Cup qualification in Munich.

After a stunning year winning the UEFA Cup, English League and FA Cups, Owen was named Europe's Footballer of the Year and was on his way to becoming a legend of English football. "The vote for European Footballer of the Year is one of the most memorable experiences of my career so far," recalls Owen.

The misunderstanding: the move to Real Madrid

But the steep rise was suddenly slowed down by injuries and the move to Real Madrid. Owen's susceptibility to muscle injuries became apparent early on in his résumé. Again and again, adductor and groin strains threw him back in his athletic development.

After eight successful years with the Reds, Owen made a momentous decision in 2004: The attacker wanted to face the challenge of Real's world selection under all circumstances.

But in the star ensemble of the Royal, he only played a minor role alongside Ronaldo, Raul, Figo, Beckham, Zidane and Co. The transfer turned out to be a big misunderstanding.

Michael Owen: The child prodigy of yore

The return: record transfer of the Magpies

After just 36 games for Los Blancos, Owen pulled the rip cord. His dream of participating in the 2006 World Cup prompted the striker who had failed in Spain to return to the Premier League in 2005.

Owen actually wanted to go back to his regular club Liverpool, but the Reds were not willing to invest more than twelve million euros for their former star. The striker had moved from Anfield Road to Real for the same amount a year earlier.

His path led him to rival Newcastle United. The Magpies put an impressive 25 million euros on the table for their most expensive transfer in the club's history. The right partner for veteran Alan Shearer seemed to have been found.

The shock: ruptured cruciate ligament at the World Cup

At the club from the north-east of England, Owen put down a brilliant half-series with seven goals in eleven games before a metatarsal fracture threw him out of the race at the turn of the year. The clash with Paul Robinson in the game against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane forced him to take a four-month break.

The fighter Owen fought his way back up and celebrated his comeback in the Premier League at the end of May 2006. Just in time to offer himself to England coach Sven-Göran Eriksson for his big goal, the World Cup in Germany. Convinced of the skills of the goalgetters, Eriksson nominated him for the tournament in Germany.

There Owen suffered the next heavy blow in the third group game against Sweden: He had to leave the field after only four minutes. The shocking diagnosis: ruptured cruciate ligament. The World Cup was over for him.

"I knew straight away that something bad had happened to me. The injury and being out at the World Cup were a heavy blow for me," said the disappointed striker after his injury. "Michael has had a lot of bad luck injuries since Christmas and I felt really sorry for him," said Eriksson, expressing his sympathy.

The offense: banishment from the national team

After his cruciate ligament rupture, Owen got six missions on the Three Lions team. He is no longer considered under Fabio Capello.

In the club, Owen only found his way back to his old strength and goal threats last season. Eleven goals in 29 league games brought him thirteenth place in the top scorer list along with stars like Steven Gerrard and Didier Drogba.

The future: everything is open

Nevertheless: The consequences of his cruciate ligament rupture and broken foot, along with chronic groin problems and numerous muscle injuries limited Owens stakes for Newcastle to only 58 in four seasons.

His contract expires in summer 2009, but the 29-year-old has already turned down a three-year offer from the Magpies. However, Owen is keeping a back door open: "I have a contract with Newcastle until the end of the season. I will play here at least that long. I will not make a decision about my future as a sport until the end of the season."

Newcastle owner Mike Ashley has little hope of an extension of Owen's contract: "We're trying everything to keep him with us. I can't keep up with clubs like Manchester City, whose boss is 1000 times richer than me," said Ashley . "If ManCity wants Michael, I can't prevent it."

The goals: championship and World Cup trophy

If Owen has his way, then he blows another big attack: "I want to win another championship in the Premier League and the World Cup with England."

If he changes, he will certainly be influenced by geographical factors: On the one hand, because he has learned from his interlude in Spain. On the other hand, because his home and close ties to his family keep him in the north-west of England.

Those in charge of Liverpool FC will certainly watch their prodigal son in the duel with the Magpies very closely. Perhaps Owen can finish his work at the club that started it all and that he should never have left.

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