Michael Owen: I will retire at the end of the season (VIDEO)
STOKE striker Michael Owen is retiring from the professional game at the end of the season.
The former England favourite, who has featured just seven times for Stoke this term, says it is the right time to hang up his boots.
Owen was certain to leave Stoke at the end of his one-year contract after making such a limited impression at the club anyway.
But today's decision ends any speculation about him moving abroad, possibly to China or one of the Gulf states, for one last pay day.
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The 33-year-old is now expected to concentrate his time on his racing stables and his expanding career in the media.
His statement today reads:
"It is with an immense amount of pride that I am announcing my intention to retire from Professional Football at the end of this season.
"Having progressed through the ranks at Liverpool to make my first team debut at 17, before embarking upon spells at Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City, not to mention representing my country on 89 occasions, I now feel it is the right time to bring the curtain down on my career.
"I have been very fortunate in that my career has taken me on a journey that like many young players starting out, I could only have dreamt of.
"None of this would have been possible without the tremendous support I have received from managers, coaches, fellow players, back room staff, the supporters and my own personal sponsors. I would like to thank each and every one for the huge role they have played in helping me reach the top of my profession.
"Most of all though, I would like to thank my family. To my beautiful wife Louise, for her continued love and support through the many ups and downs in my career and for affording me the most precious gift of all, our children."
The striker will probably be best remembered for his exploits with England, for whom he burst onto the international scene as an 18-year-old and scored his most famous goal against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup.
He ended up with 40 goals from 89 caps, behind only
&Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker and Jimmy Greaves on the all-time list.
&Owen ended his statement with a message to his father Terry, a former professional footballer with Everton, Chester and Port Vale.
He said: " We did it my old mate! From those freezing local parks to terrorising the best defenders in the world on the biggest stages of all.
I couldn't have done it without you."
Charlie Adam was among the first Stoke City players to pay tribute to Owen.
Using his Twitter account, Adam said: "Just seen the news @themichaelowen to retire. What a top player and also a top guy. Pleasure to say played in same team."
Liverpool (1996-2004): 297 games, 158 goals
Real Madrid (2004-05): 40 games, 14 goals
Newcastle (2005-09): 79 games, 30 goals
Man Utd (2009-12): 52 games, 17 goals
Stoke (2012-13) 7 games, one goal
England (1998-2008): 89 caps, 40 goals