New Stoke City signing Michael Owen: Player profile
Stoke City have signed former Manchester United and Liverpool man Michael Owen.
The 32-year-old has penned a one-year deal with the club, becoming the Potters' seventh signing of the summer.
Owen’s career began with the Liverpool youth team, which he joined at the age of 12. He soon began playing for the England Under-15 squad, appearing in eight games and scoring 12 goals.
He netted 15 goals for the Under-16 squad, and 10 for the Under-18s.
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Owen marked his 17th birthday by signing a professional contract with Liverpool, and was handed a place in Roy Evans' senior squad. The Reds were reported to rate the youngster as the best attacker of his age in the country.
The following season Owen won the Premier League Golden Boot, and secured the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
In October 1997 he signed a five-year contract with Liverpool worth £2.5 million. His £10,000-a-week deal made him the highest paid teenager in British football.
That year Owen also finished in fourth position in the FIFA World Player of the Year and European Player of the Year international awards. And at the end of the 1998-99 season he became the runner-up to Nicolas Anelka in the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
A hamstring injury put Owen out of action for almost five months in April 1999, but when he returned he scored more than 20 goals in the 2000-01 season.
Owen became the only Liverpool player to be voted European Footballer of the Year in 2001, becoming the first Briton to win Ballon d'Or since Kevin Keegan in 1979.
He also became the first English winner of the World Player of the Year award.
In September 2001, in spite of interest from a number of European clubs, Owen signed a four-year contract with Liverpool, reported to be worth in the region of £70,000 a week.
That year he also won a public vote to be elected winner of the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year title.
In April 2002 Owen was named as England's captain for a friendly match against Paraguay in place of the injured regular captain David Beckham. He was the youngest England skipper since Bobby Moore, who led his nation at a slightly younger 22.
But the player also hit a bump in the road during the 2002-03 season, when the team bowed out of the title race. Chelsea seized the Premiership's fourth Champions League place on the final day of the season.
Owen was then controversially overlooked for the PFA Player of the Year award, and Liverpool's failure to reach the Champions League led to speculation about his long-term future.
It soon emerged Liverpool were poised to offer Owen a new long-term contract, but it was later reported that the player, who had two years left on his deal, had refused to open talks over a new contract with the club until after the European Championships.
Liverpool reached the fourth and final Champions League spot, but following Gérard Houllier's sacking as Liverpool manager, speculation about Owen's departure from the club began.
The player was signed by Real Madrid for a fee of £8 million in August 2004, with midfielder Antonio Núñez moving in the other direction.
Owen played once again for the England squad in October 2004. By that time he had played for England in both Euro 2000 and the 2002 World Cup. He scored goals in all three tournaments.
During his time with Real Madrid he scored 18 goals from 41 games, 15 of which were starts.
In August 2005 Owen penned a four-year deal with Newcastle United, joining the club for a record fee of £17 million - beating the £15m Newcastle paid for Alan Shearer.
The 25-year-old was reportedly keen to re-join Liverpool, but the Reds refused to meet Real's asking price.
Just days after signing Owen suffered a thigh-injury in pre-season, which ruled him out for the start of the 2005-06 window.
He was back in action by September, but three months later broke a metatarsal bone in his foot during a match against Tottenham Hotspur. Complications saw him sidelined until April 2006.
Owen’s injury woes were to continue when a damaged anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee, sustained in the first minute of the group match against Sweden at the 2006 World Cup, kept him out of regular football for nearly a year.
Under the existing insurance arrangements between club and country, Fifa and the FA had been paying £50,000 of Owen's £110,000 weekly wages since he suffered the injury, totalling about £2m for the time he was out of action.
By September Newcastle were threatening to sue the Football Association for £20 million over the player’s injury at the World Cup. The club claimed a £10m win over the FA in June 2007.
In May 2007 Newcastle chairman Freddy Shepherd slammed Owen after rumour spread that the player may leave that summer.
A report in the Times newspaper suggested Owen could be available for as little as £9m, making him a target for Chelsea, Manchester United, Liverpool and Arsenal.
Shepherd told Michael Owen to show some loyalty and warned him none of the 'big four' clubs wanted to buy him.
In June 2007 Owen's new manager at Newcastle, Sam Allardyce, confirmed the existence of a release clause in Owen's contract, and admitted he feared the club would be powerless to prevent the player from walking out.
But the following month Owen assured fans he was committed to remaining at Newcastle, and insisted he was happy to be there.
Owen soon encountered yet more injury hurdles. In July he picked up a thigh injury in training, and in late September it was reported that he would urgently require an operation for a double hernia.
Then, in November, he suffered a thigh strain while on international duty, ruling him out for six weeks.
The month previous, United team-mate Shola Ameobi hit out at Owen’s critics, telling the Northern Echo: "People keep on knocking him down, but he continues to prove he's a world-class player.
"It's a shame that people keep on questioning him. Alan (Shearer) had it at times in his Newcastle career, and Michael's getting it these days.”
In December 2008 Owen, then aged 29, said he had "no intention" of leaving Newcastle in January, but refused to commit himself to the club beyond the end of the season.
Despite declining to sign a new three-year contract, the striker insisted his decision was "not about money" and that he was happy at St James' Park.
It was not until June 2009 that Owen confirmed he would not be re-signing with Newcastle. He said he planned to leave the relegated Magpies when his contract expired at the end of the month, and was available on a free transfer.
Hull City soon made clear their desire to sign the player, and he was linked with Everton, Aston Villa and Stoke. But it was with Manchester United that Owen penned a two-year deal at the beginning of July.
It was reported that Ferguson had struck a pay-as-you-play deal, with the player also taking a significant salary cut from the £110,000-a-week wages he was said to be on at St James' Park.
Rio Ferdinand quickly backed Owen to help fire Manchester United to success that season. Indeed, Owen enjoyed a fruitful start at the club, winning the praise of Ryan Giggs after scoring a brace in United's 8-2 friendly win over Hangzhou Greentown.
But he found himself repeatedly left out of Fabio Capello’s England squad over the following months, and struggled to hold down regular first-team football at Manchester.
In September 2009 he revealed that being forced to watch games from the bench was turning him into a nervous wreck.
In February 2010 Sir Alex Ferguson urged Capello to include Owen in his World Cup plans, telling the People: "Just imagine ... you've got 15 or 20 minutes to go in a World Cup quarter-final and you need a goal. Michael has to be in your thinking.”
Owen suffered a blow when in March 2010 he was ruled out for the rest of the season after pulling his hamstring in a 2-1 Carling Cup final win over Aston Villa.
In August that year Owen said he wanted to finish his career at Manchester United and that learning his trade under Sir Alex Ferguson had pushed forward his dream of one day becoming a football manager.
He echoed this in October when he said he could hang up his boots if Manchester United were to release him at the end of the season.
Throughout the spring of 2011 Owen expressed his desire to remain at United. Shortly afterwards, despite failing to hold down a regular place, he signed a new one-year deal with the club.
In April this year the player spoke of his desire to stay in the Premier League if he was not kept on by Manchester United. The following month 32-year-old Owen revealed he would be leaving United, after the club decided not to offer him a new contract.
Just weeks later Stoke City chairman Peter Coates said manager Tony Pulis could be interested in bringing Owen to the Britannia Stadium on a free transfer. In June, reports suggested Owen could soon complete a move to the club.
The player yesterday signed a pay-as-you-play contract with the club. Coates today said he is delighted by the signing.
"His pedigree is well known,” said Coates. “He is a wonderful footballer and I don't see why he hasn't got a lot of football left in him.
"Goalscorers are born not made. It is instinctive and Michael Owen has the skill that you can't coach. He has always had that gift.”