For details on how to contact our editorial and commercial departments, click here
COMMENT: Why Michael Owen never quite lived up to his billing
WHEN Michael Owen announced he would be retiring from football at the end of the season, it was tempting to wonder what season he was referring to. As anyone who witnessed the dying days of his time with Newcastle United can attest, the former England international had pretty much given up the ghost by 2007.
The history books will remember Owen as one of the finest centre-forwards England has ever produced, and with justifiable reason, yet in this part of the world, it is hard to overlook the desultory four-year spell he spent at Newcastle, skippering the Magpies as they dropped out of the Premier League.
Hailed as a worthy successor to the club's greatest number nines when he made a £16.8m move from Real Madrid in 2005, Owen was a broken, disinterested figure when he eventually upped sticks for Manchester United.
Injuries, most notably the cruciate ligament problem sustained in the 2006 World Cup, had taken their toll, but it is hard to imagine a more mercenary approach than the one Owen adopted during his time in the North-East.
Happy to pick up his multi-million pound pay packet and scuttle off to his family home in Cheshire, 'England's Michael Owen' simply didn't get what it meant to be the captain of Newcastle. Aloof and unapproachable, his conduct off the pitch was every bit as unimpressive as his record of 30 goals from 79 appearances on it.
Since then, he has gone on to endure similarly unsuccessful spells at Manchester United and Stoke, yet for all that his career has tailed off spectacularly, it would be wrong to overlook the brilliance of his early days or the extent of his achievements with Liverpool and England.
He made his Liverpool debut at the age of 17, scoring against Wimbledon at Selhurst Park, won the Premier League golden boot in his first full season in the senior ranks and was runner-up to Zinedine Zidane in the World Player of the Year awards.
He also scored 'that goal' against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup finals, a scintillating strike that saw him burst clear of one Argentine defender before dancing around another and slamming the ball into the net.
It was a strike that showcased all of Owen's best qualities - his blistering burst of pace, a balletic balance that enabled him to skip around opponents and evade challenges, and an unerring ability to locate the back of the net.
He was still a teenager at the time, England's tyro with the world at his feet, but while he would go on to become the only Englishman to score at four major tournaments, his potential remained largely unfulfilled.
His greatest day came in Munich in 2001 as his hat-trick helped England record a never-to-be-forgotten 5-1 win over Germany, but ankle and hamstring injuries quickly followed and it was possible to detect signs of decline in his game before he moved to Real Madrid in 2004.
With every injury setback blunting his speed that little bit more, he was forced to rely on his goalscorer's instinct, not a bad skill to fall back on, but hardly enough to sustain a striker at the very highest level.
Real Madrid was something of a disaster, and then came the aforementioned spell at Newcastle, a period that confirmed the diminution of his talent.
Yesterday's announcement of his retirement brought reflection, but hardly the outpouring of praise that might have been expected to accompany the departure of one of England's all-time leading goalscorers.
Briefly, he was brilliant. But Michael Owen exits football as a player who failed to live up to his billing.