By Andrew Aziz
Earlier this week, Liverpool fans were critical of the decision to give former Ballon D’Or winner Michael Owen an ambassador role at Anfield. When you mention Ballon D’Or winners we think of Ronaldinho, adored by Barcelona, Zidane, adored by Real Madrid, Kaka, an idol in Milan or Pavel Nedved, a director now at Juventus. Mention Michael Owen and no club will admit to adoring him even though he did win the Ballon D’Or back in 2001. An incredible achievement for any Englishman, Michael Owen can be proud of his achievement, however, why is Owen not loved by Liverpool?
His spells at Newcastle, Man Utd and Stoke were when his goal-scoring powers had faded but Michael Owen did great things at Anfield he helped win the treble in 2001, the famous fa cup final brace which turned the game against Arsenal. His goal-scoring record was an incredible 158 goals in 297 appearances. Despite all this Liverpool fans do not hold him in any high regard, I decided to explore the reasons why:
In 2004, when Gerard Houllier left Liverpool many fans were excited that they were bringing Rafa Benitez from Valencia. Liverpool had 2-3 years of disappointing underachievement under Gerard Houllier with disappointing French signings, the names El Hadj Diouf and Bruno Cheyrou still bring a shudder to most Koppites. Benitez had won two titles and his Valencia side famously outclassed the Liverpool side in a Champions League game which made Liverpool decide that he was their man. When he first joined Liverpool he was very keen to make Michael Owen a key part of his team and spoke to him. However, when Real Madrid came calling for Michael Owen the striker had decided that he wanted to go. Rafa tried to convince him to give him a chance and the new regime a chance. The move at the time was quite strange as Owen surely would be joined Real Madrid as their fourth choice striker behind Raul, Ronaldo and Fernando Morientes. The lack of first team football proved to be true and a year later he was regretting his decision and begging for an Anfield return.
Where were you in Istanbul?
One of the biggest things about Owen departure was he stated that he felt his move to Real Madrid would enable him to win the Champions League. During his sole season with Los Blancos, they were knocked out early in knockout stages whilst Liverpool performed a miracle and won the Champions League. People felt Owen deserved this outcome as he had not believed in Rafa or the project at Anfield. When Owen returned with Newcastle to Anfield, Liverpool fans jeered him with chants of “where were you in Istanbul?”. For someone who had produced match winning moments and achieved a lot for Liverpool this was a shock to Owen’s system. He had expected a hero’s welcome and to be jeered and criticised possibly he realised the full ramifications of his decision to leave Liverpool.
Joining the arch-enemy
Following Newcastle United relegation in 2009, Michael Owen had run down his contract and was available on a free transfer. He was linked with many clubs in the UK and abroad and had the choice of many options. When it was confirmed he had joined Liverpool’s biggest rivals Manchester United it was both a surprise move as many felt again he would struggle to get into the team ahead of Wayne Rooney and Dimitar Berbatov. The fact that he joined Manchester United irked Liverpool fans even more and felt he burnt all bridges with them during that move. Owen has since stated that he wanted to go back to Liverpool but Liverpool didn’t want him. I think the reason why Rafa did not want to re-sign him as he was possibly upset with Owen’s actions during the summer of 2004 and also had seen Owen’s poor performances for Newcastle and doubted his ability. When you see the hate that Steven Gerrard talks about their Northwest rivals you can understand why Liverpool fans would find it difficult to love Owen now when he has gone to play for the arch-enemy.
Liverpool fans, what is your perception of Owen? Let us know in the comments below!