Michael Owen: The Galactic Crash

In the summer of 2004, Real Madrid and Michael Owen fell in love for what was to be a lasting romance. Unfortunately, neither party will find their account, thus sounding the end of Galactics 1.0.

The beginning of the last century was all about great discovery. Consumption patterns were changing, and football was gradually turning into a money pit. A fault in which slipped Florentino Pérez, eager to build his own grinding machine. Luís Figo, Zinédine Zidane, Ronaldo and David Beckham succeeding each other, the president meringue adds the final piece of the puzzle to the summer of 2004: Michael Owen. On August 14, the child of Liverpool thus landed in Valdebebas to begin what was akin to the turning point of a career. Finally badly negotiated turn, harbinger of the hasty end of the course of the “Supreme Finisher” .

The end of an era

However, nothing predestined Owen to leave the grayness of the English northwest. Trained and revealed in Liverpool, the elf has never ceased to put on pearls in the Premier League, to the point of winning a Ballon d’Or in 2001. Under the leadership of Gérard Houllier, the one who has just entered in his twenties acquires the status of untouchable. But the departure of the French technician in this famous summer of 2004 will rush things. To replace him: Rafael Benítez. Parachuted on the bench after three big seasons in Valencia, the neophyte wants to move the lines, and reducing the scale of Owen would have the merit of marking his territory. His target is called Fernando Morientes and will not finally arrive until January. Not about to leave the slightest centimeter to a possible competitor, Owen turns against his new coach.

This succession of elements does not take long to bring him on the path of reflection. “I started thinking about my future at that time.he remembered for the DailyMail. We were in preseason in the United States, and I was already fed up. » This slight whim is enough to tip the coin to the wrong side. “I received a phone call in the middle of the night in the USA. He was my agent and he was very direct: “Get ready, Real Madrid want you.” I turned off the phone, and stared at the wall in front of me for a long moment. » Because if the offer of Real Madrid can today make you smile (12 million euros), Michael Owen is aware that it is difficult to say no to the White House. The transaction is accepted by the board liverpuldien, which does not directly inform Benítez.

“I was trying to reassure myself by telling myself that even Ian Rush had gone to Juventus. But I couldn’t. » Michael Owen

tears on the way

It must be said that the Spanish coach, if he is implicitly angry with his star striker, still wants to build a competitive team around him. And to launch a final attempt at a turnaround, Owen is checked off the match sheet for a third preliminary round of the Champions League, against Grazer AK. The goal ? Putting pressure on Real Madrid, by feigning a potential entry into play by the player, which would block him for the rest of the European campaign in the event of a transfer to Spain. the striker will ultimately never enter and will pack his bags three days later for the Concha Espina. In the deal, the Madrid promise Antonio Nuñez will take the opposite path and will not fail to crash in England (27 games, 1 goal) before returning to Spain.

The transfer officially completed, Michael Owen has not yet finished with his spleen. “I was trying to reassure myself by telling myself that even Ian Rush had gone to Juventus. But I couldn’t. » The decision to set sail, however, is irremediable: “On the way to the airport, I cried all the tears in my bodyhe narrates for goal. I couldn’t even control the crying anymore, there was so much. »

“Being alongside Zidane or Ronaldo put terrible pressure on me. I was impressed by their talent. » Michael Owen

Carragher and complexes

A situation in which Jamie Carragher, known for his delicacy, would not really be a stranger: “When I got that call in the States, the first person I talked to about it was Jamie. And his response was: “What the hell would you do in Madrid? You’ll never play!” He pissed me off. I said to myself : “Well, I’ll shut you all up.” My ambition had taken over. » Welcomed as a superstar by Florentino Pérez, in front of an audience of journalists on the lookout, Owen, 24, finally took the plunge. A journey traced between nostalgia and complexes. “Being alongside Zidane or Ronaldo put terrible pressure on me. I was impressed by their talent. When one of them managed a dribble in training, I tried to do the same. I asked for the ball between two or three defenders, to prove to them that I too was capable of achieving this kind of thing. To gain their trust. » The noose will gradually close on the Englishman, little helped by a complicated adaptation.

Father of a barely two-year-old Gemma Rose, the striker is indeed forced to stay at the hotel. Heavy family discomfort. “My wife was homesick. For me, it was a little less the case, but the accumulation of all these parasitic elements ruined my adventure in Madrid. Which is a shame because in the locker room and on the field, I enjoyed myself. » It must be said that Owen has no trouble being effective. Author of 13 goals in 36 La Liga games, he boasted a better goals/games ratio than Ronaldo during the first part of the season. An honorable record, adorned with a sublime volley against FC Barcelona at the Santiago Bernabéu, to win the hearts of admiring supporters, but witnesses of a scheduled farewell.

In the summer of 2005, Michael Owen knows that his future will be written far from the capital. “I wanted to stay at Real Madrid. But in June, we were announced the arrivals of Julio Baptista and Robinho. Two recruits who added to Ronaldo and Raúl. With the World Cup coming up, it was getting complicated, so I decided to leave. » When he left, the striker had indeed spent a ” tacit agreement ” with Rick Parry, Liverpool sporting director, to facilitate a return to the club. But the success of Reds in C1 installed a team reluctant to renew, excluding, in fact, Owen from this comeback. And as a symbol, he, the glory of the late 1990s, will choose a club with a similar trajectory: Newcastle United. To finally prove Jamie Carragher right.

By Adel Bentaha

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