Michael Owen should be a Liverpool legend. He did enough in his time at the club to be considered one of Liverpool's greatest ever strikers and is eighth on the all-time goalscoring list. He's also Liverpool's youngest ever goalscorer, a record achieved on 6 May 1997 against Wimbledon aged 17 years, 143 days. The BT Sport pundit is only 34-years-old and has other notable records that still stand today. He's scored the most international goals while playing for Liverpool (shared with Ian Rush) and bagged the most World Cup goals while associated with the club.
Owen won his European footballer of the year award in 2001 as Liverpool secured an unprecedented cup treble by an English club winning the UEFA Cup, FA Cup, and League Cup. He's scored the same number of league goals as the immortal Kenny Dalglish and 118 goals in 216 Premier League games, a phenomenal record. 8 in 15 in the FA Cup, 9 in 14 in the League Cup, and 21 in 29 European games further illustrates the capabilities of a striker who achieved all this before his 25th birthday.
Joining Man United much later in his career, leaving Liverpool for a small fee for a single season in Spain, appearing to care more about his England career than his Liverpool one, and a perception that he did not push hard enough for a return to Liverpool have been all aimed at the former Liverpool star. Owen was probably the first striker of the Premier League era to leave Liverpool for more luxurious pastures only to find less warmth in different surroundings. Much has been made of Fernando Torres' travails but Michael Owen had a season at Real Madrid, wasted seasons being injured at Newcastle, content reserve at Manchester United, and something something at Stoke City. All far worse than Torres trudging around Stamford Bridge.
Liverpool got the best years from Owen and there wouldn't be a single soul, the man himself included, who would say otherwise. That infamous brochure, "observations" as a pundit, and packaging of his "brand" made it even more difficult to be bothered with Michael Owen but he has been making more positive sounds about Liverpool since his retirement. In fact, Owen has reassuring words for those who are sceptical about the new arrivals from Southampton.
"They were fantastic last year for Southampton and are proven in the Premier League," the 34-year-old told Liverpool's official site. "You would think Lambert will get his fair share of games now, because Liverpool are in the Champions League - there are going to be four competitions to be playing in and lots of games. It's a brilliant story and I can only imagine what it would have felt like for, say, Robbie Fowler to return to his boyhood club. I obviously wanted that throughout my career. So it must be double the excitement having never done it before, wondering 'what if?', to actually go and play for your boyhood club at such an age.
"You've just got to love it, you've got to smile when you see the smile on his face. Playing for a team like Liverpool, that he's supported all of his life, it's a great story. I hope Rickie has a good season. Lallana could be a star. He has done fantastically well, has great feet and lovely balance. I'm really looking forward to seeing him in the Liverpool shirt. They are two good buys."
Some may claim that there is English bias at play in Owen's appraisal of the two new English Liverpool players but they haven't been signed for quota purposes or through sentiment. You can feel the regret seeping through Owen's words as he conveys his excitement at Rickie Lambert's return to his boyhood club. It is an underestimated aspect of the Lambert's transfer to Liverpool. Sure, he will do his best as a professional and has a solid record over the past two years in the Premier League to feel confident in his services as a reserve. Yet the chance to prove something to himself after many years that he can thrive at the highest level at a club he never stopped supporting will drive him on further. He's played and scored for England as well as appeared at a World Cup. This should be the last stop on an amazing journey.
As for Adam Lallana, he does have "great feet and lovely balance" and "could be a star" for Liverpool. He has the tools, understands Brendan Rodgers' tactical and technical approach to the game, and possesses the necessary maturity to be a key player next season. Owen also praised many of Liverpool stars of last campaign with Raheem Sterling and Steven Gerrard attracting special praise from the former England international. Owen hoped that both "can go on" next season as Liverpool will need to be better as rivals strengthen.
"If Liverpool are going to progress again, they probably need to get better again," asserted the Chester native. "Manchester City won the league, Chelsea have strengthened in a big way. From second to first is a big leap so Liverpool are going to need to be better again and the top-line performers are going to need to play as well, if not better. One or two signings and it could be a good season for Liverpool."
If Michael Owen continues to offer sensible observations on matters related to Liverpool FC, John Barnes may just have a rival for future Liverpool spokesperson.