Michael Owen: The Athlete, the Ambassador, the Icon, the Waste of Money

Owen WatsonCorrespondent IJuly 1, 2009

NEWCASTLE, UNITED KINGDOM - APRIL 27:  Michael Owen of Newcastle looks on after a miss during the Premier League  match between Newcastle United and Portsmouth at St James' Park on April 27, 2009 in Newcastle Upon Tyne, England.  (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

We've all heard of the infamous, and ill-advised, brochure compiled by Michael Owen's representatives, designed to lift the fog clouding all those in football that dared to doubt Owen's ability.

All I can say is they are lucky they aren't selling it at Waterstones, because I'm not buying it.

This fantastic document explains, We're it not for an unhappy spell at Real Madrid...and two injury scarred years at Newcastle, he would be spoken about in the same breath as Torres or Ronaldo and valued in the priceless figures that only match-winning goalscorers ever justify.”

So, three admittedly poor years followed by a disappointing spell at Newcastle, that's only a third of a professional career! It's like Arsenal saying, "We were invincible in 2004, so we will be invincible again in 2010."

Not only that, it's like saying: “if I wasn't poor for the last five years, I'd be good”. Well, obviously! If I scored 25 goals in the Premier League last season, I'd have the golden boot, but guess what, my mantlepiece is looking balder than Frank Leboeuf after three months of chemotherapy and a bikini wax.

After all, this is a player that is currently behind Peter Crouch, Emile Heskey, Darren Bent, Carlton Cole, and even Gabriel Agbonhalor in the England pecking order. Fabio Capello, picking his England squad against Ukraine, chose to exclude Owen despite multiple injuries, saying: ”I have to choose players to play against Ukraine, not against history.”

Indeed. Admittedly, Owen won the Ballon d'Or in 2001, the first Englishman since Kevin Keegan in 1979 to do so. But that was eight years ago, and this is a man that has never won a league championship in more than 10 years as a professional footballer, and hasn't scored 20 club goals in a season since 2004

Despite glossing over the reality with "goals per start" ratios, one stat we should never forget is that in four years of playing for Newcastle United, Owen scored only 26 goals. Let's do a quick calculation here: Four years' wages at £100,000 a week, plus the club record £16.1m Newcastle United paid for Owen, equals a total outlay of £36.9m. 

£36.9m / 26 goals = £1.4m per goal. Even ignoring wages, that is £619k, or £0.6m per goal. And you can bet your bottom dollar Owen insisted on a goal bonus in his lucrative contract!

Thierry Henry, in comparison, was bought for £10.5m by Arsenal and scored 174 goals for the Gunners. That's £60k, or £0.06m per goal, and Owen's representatives think Owen is unfortunate to not be mentioned in the same breath as Torres or Ronaldo? Even Alan Shearer scored 148 goals for Newcastle after signing for £15m, that's £100k, or £0.1m per goal. Henry and Shearer played a combined 18 years for their respective clubs. 

Ignoring wages, Owen was ten times more expensive per goal than Henry, and six times more expensive than Shearer. And it wouldn't be unfair to speculate that Owen was probably on an awful lot more money than these two players across their careers.

Admittedly, Owen's "goals per starts" ratio remains impressive, but this clearly ignores those games where he is coming back from injury, yet includes any goals he scores at this time. The fact that he is making fewer starts as a proportion to his goals skews the stat in his favour. It wouldn't be the first time he'd received a massage to help his career out, would it?

Speaking on his injury troubles, the brochure contains a strong rebuttal from Owen's medical adviser, stating his" injury prone" reputation is “nonsense." This coming from the same doctor that treated Craig Bellamy, Kieron Dyer, Damien Duff, and Dean Ashton at various stages of his career. I'm sure West Ham and Manchester City will be delighted with his services.

Despite this claim, the dossier details a catalogue of problems Michael sustained, Owen's representatives expect us to believe he will rekindle his previous goal scoring heights, whilst simultaneously shake the niggling injuries that have plagued and hampered him over recent years. So, does past performance reflect future performance, or not? Apparently it does with goals, but not with injuries.

I don't doubt that Michael Owen used to be a fantastic goal scorer, and I'm sure that he could go on to have a degree of success with the right club. But his wage demands are ludicrous. How he can claim to be one of the best strikers in the world whilst also flirting with Hull City astounds me.

But on the plus side, he is “never late for training," and that's worth £100k a week of anyone's money.