Michael Owen to retire at the end of the season
Former Liverpool and England striker announces decision to end playing days
Former England international Michael Owen has announced he will retire at the end of the season.
The striker will play out the current campaign with Stoke City, who he joined last summer, before hanging up his boots.
Announcing the decision on his website, Owen said "it is the right time to bring the curtain down on my career."
The 33-year-old enjoyed an incredibly successful career, coming through the ranks at Liverpool before going on to play for Real Madrid, Newcastle and Manchester United before his current club.
However the player that brought the sparkle to the 1998 World Cup with his dazzling goal against Argentina, struggled with injuries and some will argue he failed to reach his full potential.
Despite that, he is the last Englishman to win the coveted Ballon d'Or, which he collected in 2001, while he sits fourth in the list of all time England goalscorers, netting 40 during his 89 appearances for the national team.
Owen came through the ranks at Anfield before making his debut in 1997 and would be Liverpool's top scorer every season until he left in 2004. During his time at the club Liverpool completed a cup treble of FA Cup, League Cup and Uefa Cup. Owen played a huge part in that success, scoring a memorable late double against Arsenal in the FA Cup final at the Millennium Stadium. His role was recognised when he was awarded the Ballon d'Or in 2001 - the first Englishman to win it since Kevin Keegan in 1979.
He left Anfield in an £8m deal that took him to Real Madrid however a slow start led to criticism from certain parts of the Spanish media. Regularly starting on the bench, Owen was still able to net 18 goals - which came from a total of 41 games, of which only 15 were starts.
He returned to the Premier League with Newcastle United in a £16.8m deal in 2005 but injuries hampered his time in the north east - and he played just 79 times for the Magpies. Despite his injury problems, he was sill able to score 30 goals in that time.
Owen ran down his contract at St James' Park and amid much speculation over where he would move, Manchester United moved in.
Again, injuries would curtail the number of appearances he made - which totalled just six starts in the league over three seasons. His time at Old Trafford will be best remembered for a winning goal against Manchester City deep into injury time in 2009.
He was released by United last summer and joined Stoke City. However, injury problems have continued this season with Owen making just one start - in the FA Cup against Crystal Palace. Owen has scored just one goal which came in a 3-1 defeat to Swansea in January.
Despite playing for some of the biggest clubs in Europe, it is perhaps Owen's international career that will be best remembered.
Owen made his debut in 1998 and became the youngster player and youngest goal scorer at the time. It was at the World Cup that year that he become an internationally recognised figure. He came off the bench to score in England's second game against Romania before his memorable goal against Argentina in St Etienne. He also picked up the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award that year.
Owen would go on to score a total of 40 for England, putting him behind only Bobby Charlton (49), Gary Lineker (48) and Jimmy Greaves (44). He is the only player to score at four separate tournaments for England - the 1998 World Cup, Euro 2000, the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004. Arguably his greatest performance came in the 5-1 thrashing of Germany in 2001, during which Owen scored a hat-trick.
His final cap for England came in a 1-0 defeat by France in March 2008 while his last goals for his country were a brace against Russia the previous September.
The Football Association paid tribute to Owen, with Club England managing director Adrian Bevington saying: "Michael Owen enjoyed a tremendous career with England, playing at every level.
"He has always conducted himself with outstanding professionalism when on England duty and performed at the highest level, scoring important goals at major tournaments.
"We are already in talks with Michael about how he can share his international experience with our younger players in the future in an ambassadorial role."
Lineker added on Twitter: "Michael Owen to retire at the end of the season. One of England's greatest goal scorers, and a good bloke too. Wish him well."
Michael Owen's statement in full...
"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.
"To my Mum who has always taken the brunt of my frustrations yet continues to keep our family so tight-knit, a trait that has formed the foundations of my own success. Her dedication to me and my brothers and sisters is immeasurable. I'd like to thank Terry, Andy, Karen and Lesley for being so understanding and creating the perfect environment to grow up in. Last but not least, my Dad. 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."
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