Michael Owen’s decision to retire at the end of the season has been met with admiration from all corners of the football world, with ex-coaches, teammates and fellow professionals quick to congratulate the former England forward on an excellent career.
The Stoke striker will go down as one of the most clinical marksmen to grace the English game, and despite injury problems that have hampered him since his early days, Owen has been at the top of his profession for fifteen years, scoring 246 career goals in the process.
"He is in the top four of our greatest ever finishers, along with Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer," claimed Glenn Hoddle, the man who gave Owen his England debut.
"He was a baby-faced assassin. His finishing was amazing for a young man. He had that coolness in the penalty box. Some players get anxious but he seemed to get calmer and calmer.”
Hoddle chose Owen for his 1998 World Cup squad and his faith in the young Liverpool striker was vindicated on a hazy night in St Étienne. It is a moment that will be forever etched in the memory of spectating England fans, and the flashback of his wonder goal against Argentina is a cherished memory for the ex-England coach: "It was such a wonderful way to announce himself to the world".
Owen would go on to score 40 goals in 89 games for his country, making him the fourth-greatest England goalscorer, just nine behind Bobby Charlton. Despite frustration at major tournaments, wonderful moments were still had wearing the Three Lions. Apart from his lauded individual effort at France ’98, his hat trick during a 5-1 rout of Germany was the pick of his England performances. His coach at the time, Sven-Goran Erikkson, has fond memories of working with him:
"First of all he's a fantastic man and professional. You never had any problems with Michael Owen, on the pitch or off the pitch. He was always professional in his way, and you knew if you had him in your team he's a danger and he can score the winning goal.
"The only problem with Michael Owen was his injuries and it's been going on for a long, long time. He's been unlucky because he couldn't work as hard as he wanted and he missed too many games,” the Swede continues.
"That's a pity for him, a pity for England, a pity for the clubs he played for and the pity for football."
As expected, Twitter was awash with well-wishing from fans, players and journalists. Owen’s fox-in-the-box predecessor, Gary Lineker, led the tributes: “One of England’s greatest goalscorers and a good bloke too. Wish him well”.