Sunday 8 December 2019

Owen just reminding everyone how far he has fallen

Aidan O'Hara

Aidan O'Hara

While Lionel Messi was collecting the Ballon d'Or last Monday, a former winner took to Twitter for no other reason, it seems, than to remind people that he is a former winner of the award.

At 7.30 last Monday, Michael Owen posted a close-up picture of the trophy, which he won in 2001, along with the message: "I'm only 3 of these behind Messi! #stilltimetocatchhim #NOT".

On the surface, Owen's tweet seems harmless with the hash tag (# symbol) making it clear that he wasn't serious because, in the world of social media, it doesn't take much for a joke to be lost in translation. What wasn't lost, however, was the opportunity for Owen to remind his 1.7 million followers what a good player he was.

Two weeks ago, in response to online criticism, Owen posted another picture of his trophy cabinet with the message: "Just to remind the trolls with a short memory out there."

The picture showed off the Ballon d'Or, a Player of the Year award, several medals and golden boots and a BBC Sports Personality of the Year trophy for finishing third in 2001. Nobody could deny it's impressive but, as one response pointed out, the room could barely have been touched since 2004. He was at it again yesterday morning when somebody got in touch with him to say, "You're s***e". Owen responded: "Thanks. You are probably right but I once had more talent in my little toe than you ever will."

The key word there is "once" because with Owen, everything is so far in the past that he seems compelled to jog people's memories.

Earlier in the season, in response to a query about whether he still had the match ball from his hat-trick against Newcastle, he posted a picture of a dozen signed footballs with the caption, "It's one of these", while the boots, shirt and ball from his treble against Germany hangs in a separate cabinet.

None of Owen's actions are particularly offensive but tales of what a great player someone was are usually the preserve of those who "coulda been a contender".

Throughout Ireland and Britain, there are hundreds of them who had the talent but never made it. Most accept their destiny after a few years, but some will bring it up at a moment's notice and narrate the well-worn tale of what they could, should and would have done. Responding by saying, "Yeah, but you didn't", doesn't break their stride.

In Owen's case, he had a career that would be the envy of all but a handful of pros, yet there is a nagging sense of unfulfillment, particularly when his default response to the player he is now is to point out the player he was.

Last week, Owen was linked with a move to Australia, which he dismissed, but it speaks volumes of how the striker is now viewed that talk of a move to a league which makes the MLS look like La Liga came with little surprise.

So far this season at Stoke, Owen has played 112 minutes – not exactly the impact the Potters were hoping for when they signed him last year.


In the 0-0 draw at Crystal Palace in the FA Cup last weekend, he was taken off after 59 minutes and, unsurprisingly, wasn't in the squad for Stoke's game against Chelsea on Saturday.

He may get another chance in Wednesday's replay but, five months into the season, he has spent more time as an analyst for 'Match of the Day' than he has playing in the Premier League for Stoke.

When the interest from Australia was mooted, Stoke manager Tony Pulis went through the PR dance that Owen "has a contract until the end of the season, which we both want him to see out". When he signed him, Pulis reckoned that Owen had "the bit between his teeth" after his time at United and spoke of him being a "great role model" and a "fantastic signing".

That was in September. With far less enthusiasm, Pulis is now using phrases like "see out".

The common perception was that Owen's career started to nosedive once he left Liverpool for Real Madrid but, given the option to play with Roberto Carlos, Zinedine Zidane and Ronaldo, it's hard to criticise Owen for not staying to play with Djimi Traore, Luis Garcia and Djibril Cisse.

But it was at Real where Owen became as adept at fading into the background as he had previously been at scoring goals. He was unlucky with injuries at Newcastle but joined Manchester United at the same age as Robin van Persie did, 29.

Yet, while Van Persie seems to be on his way to becoming a United legend, Owen became an irrelevance with the exception of an injury-time winner in a 4-3 victory against Manchester City in 2009.

Rather than antagonistically showing off pictures from his trophy room on Twitter, Owen might be better served allowing people to remember him by such moments of glory. Even if there may be no more of them.

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