It took Michael Owen just
17 minutes to announce his arrival at Liverpool when he scored his first
goal on his league debut against Wimbledon in May 1997.
He could do with making the same kind of instant impact on his first
appearance for Real Madrid in the next few weeks where he dreams of
emulating the club's greats like Alfredo Di Stefano, Raul and Zinedine
Zidane and winning the European Cup.
Owen, just 17 at the time of his breakthrough and now a mature 24,
scored a well-taken goal soon after coming on in the second to last game
of the 1996-97 season.
He proved then that the incredible skill and speed he possessed as a
young boy, when he once scored 150 goals in a season, would enable him
to hold his own in the Premier League.
Within a year Owen was England's youngest player for more than a century,
and when he scored his first goal in his fourth appearance with a classy
strike against Morocco before the 1998 World Cup he became their
youngest scorer for more than a century too.
He made an even bigger impact when he scored a classic goal against
Argentina in the finals in France and is now England's joint
10th-highest scorer of all time with 26 goals in 60 internationals.
Bobby Charlton's England scoring record of 49 goals and Peter Shilton's
appearance record of 125 matches are both within his sights.
Now after almost 300 matches and 158 goals for Liverpool Owen faces
probably the toughest challenge of his career -- winning a place in Real
Madrid's starting lineup and the earning the affections of the fans.
He moves to Madrid as the personal choice of president Florentino Perez
and joins the 'galacticos' alongside England team mate David Beckham,
Zidane, Luis Figo and Ronaldo at a club that is determined to recapture
both the Spanish and European titles this coming season.
Owen faces very tough competition not only from Brazil's scoring machine
Ronaldo but also local hero Raul and the rejuvenated Fernando Morientes,
who reached the Champions League final while on loan at Monaco last
He will want to play regularly, rather than becoming famous as the first
galactico 'supersub', but has a lot to prove because last season was a
mixed one for Owen in terms of form and fitness for Liverpool and
There is a widespread view that a series of injuries over the last few
seasons have cost Owen that vital half-a-yard of pace that was such a
feature of his game when he was younger.
There is no doubt he is still a dangerous striker -- but there are
doubts about his physical durability.
After starting well with eight goals in his first eight matches last
term, Owen scored just once between October and the start of February
before recovering from injury and ending the season finding the net
But he had a less than memorable Euro 2004 and now has to start all over
again at the biggest club in the world.
A level-headed young man, Owen has achieved at the highest level winning
the UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup with Liverpool and being named
European Footballer of the Year in 2001.
But his last two seasons were something of an anti-climax with little
for Liverpool fans to celebrate, apart from a League Cup final win over
Manchester United in which Owen scored, as the lucrative Champions
League proved to be a mirage for former coach Gerard Houllier.
Houllier has departed and been replaced by Spaniard Rafael Benitez and
now Owen has gone too, hoping his dreams turn into reality in Madrid and
do not become the stuff of nightmares.