Is there any way back for Owen?
Quite how far Michael Owen’s career has nosedived was underlined at the weekend when the Newcastle United striker was again overlooked for his country despite the lack of attacking options for coach Fabio Capello.
Capello watched three of his squad strikers hobble off at Wembley on Saturday during the 4-0 friendly victory over Slovakia with Emile Heskey and Carlton Cole both ruled out of Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier against Ukraine.
With Peter Crouch also carrying a knock, surely the time had come for Capello to get on the telephone to Owen, a player with 40 goals in 89 appearances for his country and who was voted Europe’s best player in 2001.
Instead, Capello bluntly dismissed the case for Owen, saying he felt the striker was not playing well enough for his club. Capello turned to the much-maligned Darren Bent, a willing runner but hardly a finisher in the same class as Owen.
It is hard to see where Owen now fits into Capello’s plans. The Italian appears to favour a big target man playing in tandem with the versatile Wayne Rooney. Owen’s penalty area prowess is clearly not enough for Capello.
At 29, and after a series of injuries, Owen does not have the explosive pace that was once his trademark and he can look hesitant in front of goal. He has scored just once in his last 10 matches for relegation-haunted Newcastle and it is a year since he last played for England.
So is there any hope of an international return for the former Liverpool man? A move away from St James’ Park would be a first step but any journey back to the top of European football looks like being a long and painstaking one.
HAPPIER TIMES: Michael Owen poses alongside Fabio Capello at the launch of the England team’s new away kit, February 4, 2008. REUTERS/Eddie Keogh