Michael Owen spent his career at some of Europe’s biggest clubs. Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United can count 74 league titles and 23 European Cups between them in combined honours, often serving as the stage to some of the world’s best players.
At international level, Owen, who scored 40 goals in 88 games for England, formed part of a group of players dubbed ‘The Golden Generation’, a side of immense individual talent despite the collective disappointment at major tournaments.
In our chat, we asked him to select his ultimate XI of past teammates. It’s quite the team.
Goalkeeper: Edwin van der Sar
Edwin van ser Sar was the Peter Schmeichel replacement that Manchester United and long searched for, after joining the club from Fulham in 2005. The Dutchman spent six seasons with the Red Devils, where he became the oldest player to win the Premier League, at 40 years and 205 days, when collecting his fourth title as a teammate of Owen in 2011.
Two years earlier, Van der Sar had gone 1,311 minutes without conceding in the Premier League, setting a new world record.
“It was him or Casillas,” Owen deliberated.
Right-back: Gary Neville
“I’m going Gary Neville at right-back…now it gets better!” Owen jokes.
A long-term teammate with England and a club colleague for a brief time at Manchester United, Gary Neville slots in on the right side of the defence.
The now Sky Sports pundit won eight Premier League titles at Old Trafford, and was included in the PFA Team of the Year on five occasions. Neville, who won 85 caps for England, spent his entire career at Manchester United, for who he made 602 appearances.
Centre-back: Rio Ferdinand
Rio Ferdinand starts at centre-back in Owen’s greatest XI of former teammates. Owen had scored as Ferdinand’s West Ham side were beaten in the 1996 FA Youth Cup final, before both broke into the Premier League as teenagers.
Ferdinand twice became the most expensive defender in football before his 23rd birthday, after completing big-money moves to Leeds and Manchester United. With the latter, the centre-back won six Premier League titles and the Champions League among his honours.
Owen and Ferdinand – who later became teammates at club level – were both on the scoresheet as England beat Denmark 3-0 in the 2002 World Cup Round of 16.
Centre-back: John Terry
John Terry partners Ferdinand at centre-back, with the long-term England defensive duo reunited in Owen’s dream teammate XI.
Terry is regarded as one of the Premier League’s greatest defenders, having captained Chelsea during the most successful era in the club’s history. After coming through the academy, Terry led the West Londoners to five Premier League titles.
The centre-back was named the PFA Players’ Player of the Year as Chelsea won a drought-breaking title in 2004/05, having conceded a record low of 15 goals.
Left-back: Roberto Carlos
Roberto Carlos is the first of four ex-Real Madrid teammates in this side, with the Brazilian part of the club’s famous Galacticos team of the early noughties.
Carlos’s cavalier approach helped reinvent the full-back role, with the left-back forging a reputation for the speculative in Spanish football. He beats Ashley Cole to a place in this team, in a battle between the two of the best left-backs of their era.
Midfield: Steven Gerrard
Steven Gerrard kicks off a formidable midfield, having come through the Liverpool ranks alongside Owen.
Gerrard became arguably the best player in Liverpool’s history during a long career with the club, where he won seven major trophies, including the 2005 Champions League.
The only player in history to have scored in a Champions League, UEFA Cup, FA Cup and League Cup final, the former Liverpool captain was the ultimate big-game player.
Midfield: Zinedine Zidane
Zinedine Zidane was perhaps the Galactico of the Galactico era, recruited from Juventus in a world-record deal as Real Madrid signed four Ballon d’Or winners in five summers.
The Frenchman ended his first season with the winning goal in the Champions League final, lashing home a stunning volley in the decider against Bayer Leverkusen.
😱 Zinédine Zidane’s spectacular volley in the 2002 final! 🚀🎯
— UEFA Champions League (@ChampionsLeague) July 9, 2019
The three-time FIFA World Player of the Year is the only player in history to win the World Cup and the European Championship while being named best player in both competitions.
“Scholsey (Paul Scholes) was floating around my team in the middle there, but I thought I better put two strikers in,” Owen said.
“So it’s Gerrard and Zidane in midfield.”
Right-wing: Luis Figo
Another member of Real Madrid’s Galactico project, Luis Figo is named on the right.
Figo was the first to sign for the Spanish giants during their remarkable recruitment drive, crossing from arch-rivals Barcelona in a controversial and record-breaking deal.
The Portuguese superstar beats David Beckham to a position in Owen’s team, courtesy of a résumé that includes four La Liga titles, four Serie A titles, the Champions League, and a Ballon d’Or.
Undoubtedly, one of Portugal’s all-time greats.
Left-wing: Ryan Giggs
On the opposite flank, is Ryan Giggs.
Though the Welshman was coming towards the end of his career during his time as a teammate of Owen’s, his body of work includes becoming the most decorated player in English football history.
Giggs memorably set up Owen’s famous winning goal in a thrilling Manchester Derby in 2009.
— Premier League (@premierleague) September 20, 2019
Forward: Wayne Rooney
Owen featured alongside Wayne Rooney at two major tournaments with England, with the latter emerging as one of the stars of Euro 2004. Rooney, then just 18, scored four goals at the finals, following a similar path to Owen as a teenager superstar with the Three Lions.
Owen later became a team-mate of Rooney’s at Manchester United, winning the Premier League title in 2010/11. Rooney departed the Red Devils as the club’s all-time record goalscorer with 253 goals.
For some, the best centre-forward to have graced the game. Serious knee problems had diluted the brilliance of the Brazilian by the time Owen became his teammate at Real Madrid, but he still remained an elite goal threat.
Ronaldo’s presence prevented Owen from earning a regular run at Real Madrid, as O Fenômeno scored 104 goals in 171 games for the Spanish giants.
The two-time Ballon d’Or winner had signed for Real Madrid in 2002, after inspiring Brazil to World Cup success that summer, eliminating Owen and England in the quarter-finals.
See more – Iconic Performances: Michael Owen in Munich