Owen to retire at end of season
Former England international Michael Owen has announced he will retire from football at the end of the season.
But Owen, who has been dogged by injury in the latter stages of his career, has found opportunities very difficult to come by at the Britannia Stadium and has made the decision to hang up his boots.
The striker wrote on his personal website: "It is with an immense amount of pride that I am announcing my intention to retire from professional football at the end of this season."
The striker will probably be best remembered for his exploits with England, for whom he burst onto the international scene as an 18-year-old and scored his most famous goal against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup.
He ended up with 40 goals from 89 caps, behind only Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker and Jimmy Greaves on the all-time list.
In the statement on his website, Owen continued: "Having progressed through the ranks at Liverpool to make my first-team debut at 17, before embarking upon spells at Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City, not to mention representing my country on 89 occasions, I now feel it is the right time to bring the curtain down on my career.
"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.
"None of this would have been possible without the tremendous support I have received from managers, coaches, fellow players, back-room staff, the supporters and my own personal sponsors.
"I would like to thank each and every one for the huge role they have played in helping me reach the top of my profession."
Owen went on to thank his family, ending with a message to his father Terry, a former professional footballer with Everton and Chester.
He said: "We did it my old mate! From those freezing local parks to terrorising the best defenders in the world on the biggest stages of all. I couldn't have done it without you."
Owen was a prodigious talent as a schoolboy and signed for Liverpool when he was 12 before turning professional at Anfield five years later.
He scored on his first-team debut against Wimbledon in 1997 and did not look back, winning the Premier League Golden Boot in his first two full seasons and being voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1998.
In the 2000/01 season, Owen helped Liverpool to a treble of FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup titles and was named European Footballer of the Year - the first Englishman to win the award since Kevin Keegan in 1979.
Liverpool won the League Cup again two years later but they were unable to achieve a first Premier League title and speculation about Owen's future at Anfield grew, particularly when manager Gerard Houllier left in May 2004.
In August of that year Real Madrid got their man when the striker headed to Spain having scored 158 goals for Liverpool at better than a goal every two games.
Injuries had already begun to surface, though, with hamstring problems impacting on his pace, and he had only limited opportunities among the Galacticos at the Bernabeu.
Owen returned to England a year after moving to Spain, joining Newcastle for a club record fee of #16.8million, but injuries increasingly took their toll.
He managed only 79 appearances in four years, scoring 30 goals, with a broken foot and a knee ligament injury sustained on England duty at the 2006 World Cup proving particularly damaging.
A disastrous 2008/09 season culminated in Newcastle being relegated and Owen moved again that summer, joining Manchester United.
Sir Alex Ferguson used him sparingly but there were notable highlights, particularly a very late winner in a 4-3 derby victory over Manchester City in September 2009 and a hat-trick in the Champions League against Wolfsburg.
The 2010/11 season brought Owen his first Premier League title, with the striker making 17 appearances and scoring five goals.
He was released at the end of last season and was without a club during the summer before joining Stoke in September, but he has made only seven appearances for the Potters, scoring once against Swansea in January.
His final cap for England came in a 1-0 defeat by France in March 2008 while his last goals for his country were a brace against Russia the previous September.
As well as that goal against Argentina in St Etienne, Owen was also the hero of one of England's greatest recent wins, scoring a hat-trick in the 5-1 win over Germany in Munich in September 2001.