Michael Owen: Ballon d’Or winner

Adam Brown

Since the existence of the Ballon d’Or award, only four English players have ever been handed football’s most illustrious title.

Michael Owen is England’s most recent winner, thanks to his success in 2001, where he matched the achievements of some of the countries best ever players in Sir Stanley Matthews, Sir Bobby Charlton and Kevin Keegan.

Of course, this was in an era where the award was competed for by more than two players. Since 2008, the Ballon d’Or award has been dominated by Cristiano Ronaldo (4) and Lionel Messi (5).

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Lead by Gerard Houllier, Liverpool would lift five trophies in the year of 2001; including the treble of both domestic trophies and UEFA Cup. What is particularly more impressive about Michael Owen’s pivotal role in Merseyside’s successes, is the fact that Owen was just 21 years old.

Most notably from this season, Arsenal fans especially will remember the impact of the Liverpool man off the bench at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, scoring two in the last 10 minutes. Mercifully for Wenger and the Gunners players, Arsenal Fan TV wasn’t running during the 2001 F.A Cup final.

31 goals and five medals in a year? Given the amount of ‘hype-trains’ that start up over the likes of Marcus Rashford and other recent young English players, none come close to the levels in which Owen was performing at. We can only imagine the excitement and hype if Twitter was around back then for the Reds star forward. But the striker from Chester wasn’t just performing at club level either…

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Effectively, we need to save our ‘hype-trains’ for players that are actually deserving of one. It’s nice to see a young English player score on their debut, but how many 21 year olds have scored a hat-trick against Germany? But not just that, those who remember the 2002 World Cup will remember Owen’s contributions, including a goal against Brazil in the quarter-finals.

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In some ways, Michael Owen’s ability is potentially overlooked. Sometimes remembered for his obvious quotes in commentary, the former Liverpool striker should be remembered more fondly.  The man who was arguably England’s greatest ever young forward, an example, a standard which other forwards should look to reach. Given how poor England have been in major tournaments of late, a player like Michael Owen is exactly what has been missing.

No English lion player in recent times has ever matched Michael Owen’s Ballon d’Or year in 2001. With the emergence of Messi and Ronaldo, but also the likes of Neymar and Kylian Mbappe, it’s unlikely we’ll see an English Ballon d’Or winner for some time.

Slow down the hyperbole on young English forwards, it’s time to realise that the national team have regressed, regardless of Harry Kane’s league form.

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