Club: Liverpool FC
Growth type: Early Peak
Club: Real Madrid
Growth Type: Early Peak
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- In his pomp, Micheal Owen was among the most lethal players going around.
The son of Terry Owen, himself a handy forward sprung from Everton's ranks, Michael was raised in Hawarden, Wales. His record-breaking form at school level attracted the interest of several top-flight clubs and, despite his Goodison heritage, he snubbed the likes of Arsenal, Chelsea and Manchester United to join Liverpool's youth setup at the age of 14.
After graduating from the FA's Academy of Excellence at Lilleshall and winning the FA Youth Cup, Owen agreed professional terms with the Reds in 1996. He scored on his debut against Wimbledon later that season, but even that couldn't prepare the public for the impact he would have over the next 12 months.
With Robbie Fowler injured, the teenager was thrust into Roy Evans' starting XI during the 1997-98 campaign, and he did not disappoint. At the tender age of 18, he finished the season with as many goals to be the Premier League's joint-top scorer - in all competitions, his tally was 23 - and bagged the PFA Young Player of the Year award.
Owen stunned defences across the country with his lightning pace and instincts in the penalty area, so much so that Glenn Hoddle included him in the England squad for the 1998 World Cup. Brought along as back-up for Alan Shearer, Teddy Sheringham and Les Ferdinand, it was in France that he announced himself to the world.
Having scored as a substitute in the group-stage defeat to Romania, Owen started thereafter and led the line against Argentina in the last 16. It was in this clash that the young upstart scored arguably the goal of the tournament, making a fool of Roberto Ayala & Co. before searing the ball home from outside the 18-yard box. The Three Lions went out on penalties, but a new national hero was born.
In many ways, this marked the beginning of the end of the Kop's love affair with Owen. Although he continued to perform brilliantly for his club, the Scouse fans were suspicious of his England exploits. Many wondered if their star striker was merely using Liverpool as a vehicle for his international career. He wasn't helped by the fact his partnership with the much-maligned Emile Heskey forced the legendary Fowler to leave the club.
The peak of Owen's Anfield career came in 2001. Premier League honours still evaded him and the club, but that was all that escaped their grasp that year. The Reds claimed a unique treble, winning the UEFA Cup, League Cup and FA Cup, with Owen grabbing two late goals to down Arsenal in the latter final.
But his trophy count didn't stop there. After helping Liverpool win both the Charity Shield and the UEFA Super Cup - making it an incredible five trophies in a calendar year - Owen was named European Footballer of the Year, becoming the first Red to claim the accolade.
Michael Owen remains one of the most frightening and prolific strikers that Liverpool and England have ever produced. He might be a figure of scorn now - on Merseyside, Tyneside and nationwide - but his exploits over the past dozen years cannot be disputed. He has been one of the greatest poachers of his generation.
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