Former Liverpool striker Michael Owen has revealed he was desperate to return to the club multiple times before eventually signing for rivals Man United.
Owen left the Reds in 2004, after eight successful years in the first team, including receiving the Ballon d’Or award for his performances in 2001.
Joining Real Madrid from his boyhood club, Owen struggled to impose himself in La Liga, and moved to Newcastle United just one year later.
While Owen now operates as an ambassador for Liverpool, he remains a divisive figure among supporters for his move to Manchester in 2009, joining Sir Alex Ferguson’s United on a free transfer.
However, it could have gone much differently for the former striker, as he reveals in Liverpool writer Simon Hughes’ new book, Ring of Fire.
“At every stage—every summer—I was on the phone to Carra telling him to find a way to get me back [to Liverpool],” he told Hughes.
“‘Does Rafa want me?’, I’d say. ‘Does Kenny want me?’, Does Brendan want me?’. It was circumstance that stopped it happening.
“Whenever I was available, Liverpool had too many strikers. And when Liverpool wanted me, I was injured.
“By the end, I wasn’t the player I had been before and they simply didn’t fancy me. I wasn’t good enough.”
Owen explains how he only ever expected to leave Liverpool for a season, then return like Ian Rush had in the eighties. He also detailed how his contract at Newcastle had clauses that would have allowed him to leave to join Liverpool; £12 million after his first season, £8 million after his second season.
In 2009, Liverpool boasted a strike force including a peak-level Fernando Torres, who had fostered an unstoppable partnership with Steven Gerrard.
Rafa Benitez could also call upon Dirk Kuyt as deputy, while at the time both David N’Gog and Dani Pacheco were considered prospects for the future.
“I spoke to Carra and tried to get Benitez to do something. I wanted to try to put it right somehow,” Owen continued.
Owen was left to choose between United and Hull City.
“When it became clear Benitez didn’t want to do a deal, I spoke again with Ferguson.
“He was very positive about me. I was twenty-nine years old. Should I have decided to retire there and then?”
Owen’s post-Reds career was riddled with disappointing injury blows, stopping him from maintaining the levels of form that earned him a move to Madrid, and he ended his career with Stoke City in 2013.
Whether a move back to Liverpool would have been a positive one for Owen is up for debate.
But there is no doubt he would have been useful option for Benitez and, potentially, his successors.
His revelation is an eye-opening one, given his current standing in the eyes of most Liverpool supporters, and it may be that Owen improves his reputation by this showcase of his commitment.
* You can purchase Ring of Fire, here.