Michael Owen announces retirement
Former England striker Michael Owen has announced he will retire from football at the end of the season.
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The 33-year-old made his name with Liverpool and went on to play for Real Madrid, Newcastle and Manchester United before signing for Stoke at the start of this 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."
Michael Owen factfile:
1979: Born December 14, Chester.
1995: Beats the goalscoring record of Kevin Gallen and Nick Barmby for England Under-15s.
1996: Helps Liverpool win the FA Youth Cup in May. Signs professional terms with Liverpool on 17th birthday after previously joining them as a schoolboy.
1997: May 6 - Scores on his first-team debut against Wimbledon.
November 18 - Nets his first senior hat-trick against Grimsby in the League Cup.
1998: February 11 - Becomes youngest England international of the 20th century when he starts against Chile.
February 14 - Scores his first Premier League hat-trick against Sheffield Wednesday. Finishes season joint-top scorer in the Premier League with 18 goals.
May 31 - Named in England's World Cup squad of 22.
June 22 - Scores after coming on as substitute against Romania but England lose 2-1.
June 30 - Scores a sensational goal against Argentina before England bow out of France '98 on penalties.
December 13 - Named BBC Sports Personality of the Year, one day before his 19th birthday.
2001: May - Scores twice in the last seven minutes as Liverpool come back to beat Arsenal 2-1 in the FA Cup final at the Millennium Stadium.
September 1 - Scores hat-trick in 5-1 win over Germany in a World Cup qualifier in Munich.
September 26 - Signs new four-year deal with Liverpool.
December 17 - Named European Footballer of the Year.
2002: June - Scores goals against Denmark and Brazil during England's run to the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Japan.
2003: April 26 - Scores his 100th Premier League goal, the second of four in a 6-0 rout of West Brom.
June 11 - Captains England in the absence of David Beckham and nets twice in 2-1 Euro 2004 qualifying defeat of Slovakia.
2004: June - Scores one goal for England in Euro 2004 - in the quarter-final defeat to Portugal.
August 12 - Sources close to Real Madrid reveal the Spanish club have agreed a deal to sign Owen.
2005: May 23 - Scores 16 goals in his debut season in Spain.
August 30 - Signs four-year deal with Newcastle, sealing £17million permanent transfer.
December 31 - Breaks metatarsal bone in defeat at Tottenham and is ruled out for "several months".
2006: June 20 - Regains fitness to take his place at the World Cup but injures his knee in first minute of group game against Sweden in Cologne and is immediately replaced. Ruled out for at least nine months.
2007: April 30 - Owen makes first competitive start in over 10 months, playing the full 90 minutes as Newcastle lose 1-0 to Reading at the Madejski Stadium.
2008: January 19 - Appointed Newcastle captain by new manager Kevin Keegan.
2009: May - Finishes the season with 10 goals as Newcastle are relegated from the Premier League on the final day.
June 22 - Confirms that he will not be renewing his contract with Newcastle.
July 3 - Reports link Owen with free transfer to Manchester United and he later signs a two-year contract with the champions after passing medical tests.
September 22 - Claims a dramatic winner in the sixth minute of injury time to seal a 4-3 win over Manchester City.
2010: March 5 - Ruled out for the rest of the season with a hamstring injury.
2011: May - Makes enough league appearances to claim a title winner's medal but is an unused substitute in United's Champions League Final defeat to Barcelona at Wembley.
November 2 - Substituted early in Champions League group stage match against Otelul Galati and misses the rest of the season.
2012: May 17 - Reveals on Twitter that Manchester United would not be offering him a new deal after three years with the club.
September 4 - Now a free agent, signs for Stoke on a one-year contract.
September 15 - Makes Potters debut as an 89th-minute substitute against Manchester City.
2013: March 19 - Announces he will retire from professional football at the end of the season.