Michael Owen's bizarre year at Madrid

Michael Owen only lasted a year at Real Madrid, so some say he was a flop. Christian Brown begs to differ...

When Michael Owen left Liverpool for sunny Madrid in 2004, it wasn’t a decision that baffled many. After all, he’d just joined the biggest club in the world. Who wouldn’t turn Madrid down? A few bitter Liverpool fans were up in arms, but that was to be expected.

Leaving Anfield may have been tough, but to do so in order to play alongside Zinedine Zidane, Luis Figo, Roberto Carlos as well as England teammate David Beckham – how could you refuse that? Reality is you couldn’t – so off he went to the Bernabeu for £8m.

While it didn’t work out and he ended up back in England after one season, it was harsh that he was perceived as a ‘flop’ after his stint in Spain. Bearing in mind he had the near-impossible task of dislodging either club talisman Raul or phenomenon Ronaldo, he still managed 19 goals in 43 games.

When you take into account the off-field events at Madrid, where the hierarchy led by Florentino Perez decided to go through three managers that season, it makes his record even more remarkable.

It’s also worth noting that of his 35 league appearances, 15 were from the subs bench. In his 20 starts he scored 13 goals, including strikes against rivals Barcelona and Valencia. Despite predominantly being a substitute, Owen had the best strike rate in Spain: a goal every 110 minutes. By contrast, Raul had four goals in 17 starts, which equated to one goal every 344 minutes.

"Give me a chance… and I'll score"

Come August 2005 though, Owen decided he needed to be starting more games if he was to hold down his England place for the 2006 World Cup. Wayne Rooney was becoming England's main striker and Owen, who at Euro 2004 had become the first England player to score in four international tournaments, couldn't face more bench-time.

With Robinho incoming, Madrid duly granted him permission to leave, and he was sold to Newcastle United for £16.8m – double what Madrid had paid.

Flop? Nah – urban myth. Hit? Most definitely.