MICHAEL Owen has been labelled by many critics as 'finished' 'injury prone', 'past it'. But despite all the criticism there is no denying the man has a gift.
A Premier League medallist and a Ballon D'or winner, placing himself alongside such icons as Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo and a man with no fewer than 323 career goals to his name.
A household name in the world of football Owen has been on the books of some of Europe's elite clubs including Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United and is currently plying his trade at Stoke City having made the move to the Britannia in the summer.
Aside from his exploits on the pitch Michael is fast establishing himself in the world of horse racing. In 2007 he built the prestigious Manor House Stables a move he agrees was made with one eye on life after football "Football is a relatively short career and it is important to plan for the future not just for myself but my family as well."
Although a boyhood Everton fan, it was at Liverpool Owen made his name. Owen admits he formed a very strong attachment with the club during his time on Merseyside." I joined Liverpool at 11 years of age so I grew up in and around the club so naturally formed an attachment to it"
When discussing his time in the Liverpool academy Owen informs me everyday he wore the same kit as best mates Jamie Carragher, Steven Gerrard and Jason Koumas to ensure they were on the same team "When I was at the Liverpool academy it was the days before bibs were used. Teams were divided for the training session based on the kit you wore so we always made sure we had the same one on."
I've heard it said that an apprentice must serve his time by doing jobs for senior players, however it must be said Michael got off pretty lightly in this department!
"My job while I was an apprentice was to keep the boot room tidy but thankfully I only had to do this for five months before I turned pro," - thanks to his extraordinary talent.
Having scored arguably his greatest ever international goal against Argentina at World Cup 98' in France, Owen went on to score forty goals in eighty nine appearances for his country his last coming against Russia almost five years ago when Owen was just 27.
When asked if it grieves him that he has not played for his country in so long Owen insists he doesn't dwell on the past
"It is an honour to play for your country but as I've said before I try not to think about the past and what ifs. I try to concentrate on the present"
In 2004 Owen made the decision to explore a "new culture and style of football" and move to Spanish giants Real Madrid, calling the "Santiago Bernabeu" home for the next season, a decision which he discussed with Liverpool team mate Jamie Carragher
"I spoke to Jamie Carragher who is my best mate in football a few days prior to making the decision".
I continue by asking Michael if he had left Anfield on good terms with boss Rafa Benitez on to which he replied "Yes and in fact when I returned from Madrid we discussed the possibility of me re-signing for Liverpool" Michael agrees that the move to Madrid was made easier by the presence fellow Englishmen David Beckham and Jonathan Woodgate in the Madrid side.
"I suppose so as I wasn't moving to the complete unknown, they didn't help me improve my Spanish though!" He jokes.
Following a season in which Michael scored 19 goals and had the highest goals scored to minutes played ratio in Spain Owen moved to Newcastle for a reported £16m. A time which he admits was the most trying period of his career
"Newcastle United was certainly a difficult time in my career as it was where I sustained most of my injuries, which was unfortunate"
After leaving Newcastle to sign for Manchester United, Michael was accused by many as doing so for the money - a view he quickly challenges" Moving to Manchester United was purely a career move. It was the next progression for me"
A progression which resulting in Michael adding a coveted Premier League winners medal to his long list of honours. Silencing many doubters in the process.