World Football is littered with Underachievers—players from whom so much was expected, but from whom so little has been received. Almost every club has one. Fans can remember their personal excitement when so-and-so was signed, often at great expense, primed to fulfill his promise and reach the destiny that had been foreseen.
As a Tottenham sympathiser, you can imagine my palpable excitement when David Bentley was signed at great cost in 2008. Subsequent mediocrity, and loan stints with Birmingham, Rostov (!?), West Ham and Blackburn suggest that my thrill was misplaced.
News today that former England striker Michael Owen has decided to call it a day has thrown the highlight on a once prodigal talent who could quite feasibly be considered an underachiever. Certainly, the spectre of injuries has loomed large, but the hope and aspiration of mesmerising occasions at Anfield, at Saint Etienne and at Wembley has been rarely replicated in recent times. The sight of Owen crumbling to the ground in anguished agony during the 2006 World Cup is one that few England fans will forget in a hurry. My emotive despair as a man almost matched my giggling glee as a boy when the same player ran like the wind through the Argentine defence in ’98.
Few could have imagined that Liverpool’s bright-eyed, electric-paced teenage poacher would close his career among the brutes of Stoke, taking orders from an angry man in a sports cap.
I imagine Owen, like so many others in this list, is in danger of looking back on a career laced with regrets.