Michael Owen’s departure for Real Madrid wasn’t without controversy, as Liverpool lost their young star striker to Spain for an inconsequential bit of cash and Antonio Nunez, but it wasn’t until five years later when Reds fans felt finally and fully betrayed by a player many had assumed would go down as a one-club man.
It wasn’t until five years later that Owen signed for Manchester United. He’d spent a season at Madrid, and four at Newcastle United, and he’d never managed to hit the kinds of heights he did in seven full seasons at Anfeild. But he never wanted to sign for United. All along he had wanted back in at Liverpool.
“At every stage—every summer—I was on the phone to Carra telling him to find a way to get me back,” Owen revealed in Simon Huges’ book on Liverpool in the 21st century, Ring of Fire. “‘Does Rafa want me?’ I’d say. ‘Does Kenny want me? Does Brendan want me? It was circumstance that stopped it happening.
“Whenever I was available, Liverpool had too many strikers. And when Liverpool wanted me, I was injured. By the end, I wasn’t the player I had been before and they simply didn’t fancy me. I wasn’t good enough. I spoke to Carra and tried to get Benitez to do something. I wanted to try to put it right somehow.”
Instead of making his initial departure to Madrid right with fans, in the end he made it all worse and signed with United. But he’d reached a stage where Liverpool clearly weren’t interested and he needed to worry about his career. And meanwhile, United and manager Alex Ferguson had been asking about him.
“When it became clear Benitez didn’t want to do a deal, I spoke again with Ferguson,” added Owen. “He was very positive about me. I was twenty-nine years old. Should I have decided to retire there and then?”