Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen has opened up regarding the pain of returning to Anfield having felt he tarnished his legacy with the club following his departure to Real Madrid back in 2004.
The former England international turned pundit was one of the best players in the world during his eight-year spell with the Reds after graduating from the club’s academy system.
Owen clocked up 297 appearances for Liverpool scoring a gargantuan 158 goals during a hugely successful period with the club that culminated in the striker winning the 2001 Ballon d’Or – he is still the most recent Englishman to be a recipient of the prestigious honour.
However, his time at the home of the European champions turned sour after trading Merseyside for Madrid 16 years ago. Owen believes his infamous departure has tainted his memory across the fanbase and this has haunted the former England captain ever since.
Speaking to Jamie Carragher on The Greatest Game podcast, Owen says he is different to his former team-mate and scouser because he is not idolised in the same way.
He said: “It has been painful going back to Anfield. Crying in the playing lounge and hoping nobody sees. It has been torture for a long time. It is like splitting up with your wife. I can only blame myself, I said yes to Real Madrid. I still love Liverpool. Different to [Carragher], you are still at that club being idolised. I was you.
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Owen had all the qualities to usurp the likes of Roger Hunt, Ian Rush and Kenny Dalglish as the club’s greatest-ever goalscorer. However, sadly for Owen, he was never given that desired opportunity to return to the team that transformed a young boy into one of the most recognised faces in world football.
Liverpool’s all-time top-scorer Rush, after all, was handed the opportunity to return to Anfield after deciding the pursue a new challenge abroad having moved to Juventus in 1986. Owen sought out the same possibility after one year in Spain but any deal back to his former home never materialised.
Sadly for Owen, Kopites don’t forget things in a flash. It isn’t necessarily just the departure to Real Madrid that hindered his Anfield legacy but his notorious transfer to Manchester United proved to be the icing on the cake.
Whilst times have changed and supporters have become more forgiven Owen’s story at Liverpool will always remain a case of what could have been were he handed his desired return.