I was in the French stadium that day in 1998 when Michael Owen officially became The Next Big Thing in world soccer. With that iconic goal in St. Etienne, where the England teenager of wickedly brilliant pace made some strong Argentine defenders look like overmatched school boys, he was no longer the Three Lions (kind of) secret weapon.
The stadium was in awe as he tore down the middle that day, and World Cup France’ 98 was soon abuzz about it all. Owen was 18 and it was all in front of him. Arrival into superstardom seemed assured. (That story, from Jeff Bradley, was written in 1998.)
Owen never quite reached Cristiano Ronaldo- or Leo Messi-type decoration or acclaim. And later in his career, when the Liverpool youth product might have been peaking, a frustrating series of injury-related fits and starts may have prevented Owen from ever quite achieving his ultimate potential.
That doesn’t mean he wasn’t one of the best strikers of post-war England; so says this BBC columnist.
Owen was named European Footballer of the Year in 2001, the first England man to do so since Kevin Keegan in 1979. Team-wise, he claimed Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup medals.
Today, Owen retired. A statement on his personal website is here.
By the way, that goal against Argentina wasn’t even the man’s best. So says this piece from The Independent, which called it No. 2.
Well, I liked it. And so did all the England fans in the stadium — some of whom finished the evening brawling at the train station after their team was eliminated in penalties, although that’s clearly another story.
Here’s the mighty goal: