A career that was launched into orbit by a stunning goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup will end meekly 15 years later after Michael Owen announced on Tuesday he will hang up his boots at the end of the season.
The former England striker, who made his first-team debut for Liverpool as a 17-year-old and also played for Real Madrid, Newcastle United and Manchester United, has almost disappeared from view at Stoke City for whom he signed last September.
"I now feel it is the right time to bring the curtain down on my career," the injury-prone 33-year-old said on his personal website (www.michaelowen.com). "I have been very fortunate in that my career has taken me on a journey that like many young players starting out, I could only have dreamt of."
Diminutive Owen had already shown his potential at Liverpool when he thrust himself onto the world stage with a sensational solo goal against Argentina in a 1998 World Cup second round defeat in St Etienne.
A natural striker with a devastating burst of pace, Owen went on to make 89 international appearances, scoring 40 goals to sit fourth on the all-time England goalscorers' list.
Another famous England performance came in the 5-1 World Cup qualifying win in Germany in 2001 when he scored a hat-trick. "It's sad news for football that Michael Owen will retire. He's been a fantastic football player for all the clubs he played for and for England," Sven Goran Eriksson, his England coach from 2001-2006, told Britain's ‘Sky Sports News TV’.
In 297 appearances for Liverpool he scored 158 goals, making him one of the most sought-after strikers in the world, voted 2001 European Player of the Year and twice winning the Premier League's Golden Boot award.