Last Updated: 14 June 2023, Author: AceOdds.com
We're back with the legendary Michael Owen for the second time, delving even deeper into the beautiful game's many intricacies. In this sequel to our first interview, Owen draws upon his rich footballing experiences to illuminate perspectives that only a player of his calibre can provide.
From his views on emerging talent Darwin Nunez, to his first-hand tales of the Galactico era at Real Madrid, Owen's reflections are as fascinating as they are insightful. Join us as we delve back into the world of football through the lens of one of England's most celebrated talents, Michael Owen.
Yeah, a lot of people are split on their opinion of Darwin Nunez. I actually am excited about his future, but there's always a caveat I suppose.
Let's go from the start. I think I'm surprised at how raw he is, I must admit. For the money he cost and for what I saw of him in the Champions League last year, he still feels as if he's got a lot of improvement to come.
And I think Liverpool and the coaching staff there are going to have a lot of responsibility on their shoulders in terms of turning this raw talent into a top-notcher.
I think he's got elements of his game that could elevate him to be in a real top-notcher and I keep going back to someone like Didier Drogba. When they first came to the Premier League and they were very raw.Drogba got laughed at for the first year or so of his career, everybody was saying he wasn't good enough etc and then he turned that into one of the best centre forwards we've ever seen in this country.
I think Nunez has got some attributes that you simply can't give players. I mean he's direct, he's strong, he's aggressive, he's quick, he hits the ball well, he's a decent striker. He's a very good volleyer of the ball, I've noticed. So there's a lot to his game that I'd be excited about but I do think he's quite raw in certain states.
I haven't seen a player for a long time that gets me pulling my hair out one minute and gets me off my chair the next. I think he needs a lot of coaching, but I think he's got the potential of being a top-notcher.
Well, I wouldn't rule it out in the future.
I think if you cast your mind back to the start of the season, everybody was saying who's going to score the most, Haaland or Nunez? It was a big debate.
And I think people probably have a little bit of a look at Nunez as not a massive success just yet, purely down to what Haaland has done. I mean, he's just hit the ground running. And at the moment, there's no comparison.
But as I say, I do think Haaland is already an all-round player. I do think that Núñez could get to that level. It just might take another two or three years.
Well, I think in football there are certain things that you're very strong at yourself, that possibly other people can't do and vice versa. So sometimes I watch some things and I think, well I simply couldn't have done that. I mean I think when you talk about Ronaldo, Zidane, players like that.
That goal that Zidane scored in the Champions League final at Hampden Park, I simply couldn't have scored. The ball dropping vertically is one of the hardest skills to then connect like he did, on your weak foot! I could strike the ball with my weak foot, but that was just unbelievable what he did.
So things like that, I think, wow. I mean, I wouldn't even attempt it, I'd probably take a touch and lay it off or take a touch and try to shoot, or whatever it might be.
So there are certain things, yeah, that happen in a game that you just think that's just not my game. I couldn't have done it. Everybody's got those unique talents that they're strong at.
Ronaldo was another one, as you say. His pace, his skill while he was running at pace, how he used to go around the goalkeeper. It was never a forte of mine going around the goalkeeper. I didn't really like the finish, it didn't come natural to me, so that was probably one thing that he did that I couldn't do.
No, I think Real Madrid is, at the time there it was the Galactico era, wasn't it? So I think at the time they were individual players there that were probably the best collection of players in the world at that time, possibly the greatest ever collection of players ever at one time, I don't know.
When you think, Zidane, Figo, Beckham, Ronaldo, Raul, Roberto Carlos, the list goes on. It was an incredible pool of talent.
So I think there was definitely an elevation in the quality of individual players. That's not to say that the team couldn't be as effective. And that went to be proven actually, because that team of great individuals probably didn't have the collective success that many would expect.
But go in there, obviously, I just won a Ballon D'or very recently, going there I felt I should be in this type of this team. I was one of the best players around at the time. So I felt quite normal going into the dressing room.
But the one thing that you always do when you go into a dressing room is you want to impress. I know lots of people who go to a club and think go and impress the fans, go impress the manager. But for me, it was all about you've got to impress the players.
Because if you've not got their respect right from the outset, then you're going to struggle to impress the fans, the manager and everyone else.
So in the first few training sessions, I always remember being really really conscious of concentrating, of really putting as much time, effort, work in as I could in those training sessions. I wanted to make a big impression that they would think this kid can play, he's one of us, type of thing. We can give him the ball in tight situations, etc.
So I did feel particularly strong about that but I didn't feel in awe of anything or things like that. I felt as though I was good enough to be there.
Well, I think we've probably just named one in Ronaldo.
Barring injury, we might be talking about him as the greatest player ever to have set foot on a football pitch. He was simply incredible.
When I was growing up and I was watching him, I was thinking, wow, I thought I was one of the best around in my age group, etc. I thought I'm going to have a big career, I could be one of the better players, let's say, in world football. Then I watched him and I thought oh no if that's the level I've got no chance.
He was just phenomenal and to play with him, okay it was at the end of his career when he wasn't at the peak of his powers, but he was still a joy to play with. Just raw pace, strength and skill and a combination of those three just doesn't come along very often.
I'd have to say Alan Shearer, playing alongside Alan for England and for Newcastle. His goal-scoring record in the Premier League probably says it all. He was probably one of the most mentally strong players around.
Obviously he wouldn't have the skill and the pace of someone like Ronaldo but could probably get equally as good records because he just had an amazing mentality. So I think Alan Shearer was one.
Then I'd say Wayne Rooney. Look at his career, look how good a player he was. He won virtually everything. He scored hundreds of goals. He was just a total natural player with, again, a great mentality for the game. Rarely injured. Tough and mentally strong and a great lad as well so I'd say those three.
[laughs] Well, if I'm honest, I would take myself against anybody in a sprint race, if it was over 20, 30, 40 metres.
If you're talking 100 metres, then I'm sure lots of people, including Gabby, probably would have beaten me. People's long legs when they get into their top gear, then I wasn't the fastest player around.
But over sprint, over football distances, as I say, the 10, 20, 30 type of metres, I would have raced anybody in my eyes.
So yes and no. 1-1, let's say, for me and Gabby.
Well, it's hard to say. That's a question for fans to answer, I suppose.
Listen, when you play in the game, when you've managed, you've seen all the time managers can go from club to club. They can manage 10/15 clubs in their career and manage rivals and things like that. So when it's your job, it's not as big a deal.
Listen I was a fan once and I get it. If I was a fan and you're supporting a team, then you've got no reason really to ever change and you become very, very, very loyal and I was exactly that.
But when it then becomes your job, of course, you still bleed for that shirt that you're wearing, but it is your job at the end of the day. That same club that you love can break your heart, they can get rid of you, or whatever it might be and then you can't go sobbing and think, right, I'm going to finish my career.
It's very different when you're in the profession, so I'm sure Pochettino could manage, or would want to manage, any club that's going to make him manage at the top level, further his career, etc.
It's more a question of whether the fans could stomach it or not, I suppose.
Well, not many people, players or managers for that matter, turn down Real Madrid.
I know it was too tempting an offer for me to turn down when I was in the height of my powers in my career. I certainly didn't want to leave my club.
But Real Madrid is Real Madrid. It's just the most incredible club. So I guess if they come in, then Pochettino will be thinking long and hard about it.
There's a lot of vacancies in football at the moment. In some high-profile jobs, obviously we're looking at Chelsea and Tottenham in our country and who knows what the next few months are going to provide for other high-profile teams around the world.
But Pochettino seems to be the name on everybody's lips at the moment for one of these big jobs so it will be interesting to see where he ends up.
I'd suggest the most amazing chance. How can anybody be doing any worse than... what are they in the league at the moment, 11th?
So I think whoever comes in next has. They've had that initial bedding period, a lot of these players that have been signed. The results haven't been great. They're languishing in about 11th in the league. I'd suggest that most managers would fancy their chances of improving upon what they do this season.
Obviously, that statement could be proved wrong if they go and win the Champions League. But as things stand, it feels like, and the whole reason that Graham Potter and managers before that have been let go is that they've not been living up to expectations.
And the most incredible thing, as you've just alluded to, is that you can spend £500-something million or whatever they've spent in recent times and the most important position on the pitch they've not even touched.
That they can get all these great players and spend a fortune and the one position really that you to be investing the most money in and making sure is an absolute perfect fit is a centre forward.
I think they've scored 29 goals in 29 games this season. I mean it's unbelievably poor. I think that's the lowest total from a Chelsea team in about a century after 29 games. So it's amazing really.
I know Lukaku will be coming back at the end of the season, it'll be interesting to see what happens there, but my suggestion would be that they're going to have to go into the transfer market one more time.
They're going to have to trim their squad as well. Their squad is too big, you can't have any manager coming into that dressing room and keeping everybody happy. There's too many big hitters in there, too many great players. I know that sounds stupid but I think you can have too many great players in one dressing room.
So I think that the squad needs to be trimmed and I think that they then need to invest some of the money that they're going to get from other players going out the door into a top centre forward.
Well, I think if you go and ask 100 fans, there will be so many different reasons, and I've heard them all.
Maybe the midfield's aging, or maybe there needs to be more investment in the squad, or maybe there's a lack of confidence, or maybe there's injuries have played their part. Maybe the ownership needs to change. Whatever it is, it feels like there's so many excuses.
If I have to say one thing at the moment that Liverpool are doing now that they haven't done in the past, it's the pressing game. Liverpool were light years ahead of everybody else, when it was Mane, Salah, Firmino up front.
The defense and midfield could afford to be so brave because a team would pass through their press maybe once or twice a game.
Okay, it would be maybe a little bit scary because Liverpool played such a high line etc, but it only happened once a game or twice a game. In return for that, Liverpool would win the ball about 30 times in the opponent's half and have those chances, so it was a risk worth taking.
Now I just can't see the press. All of a sudden Liverpool are still trying to play a high line, an aggressive game, but without any form of cohesion in the forward position. So subsequently they're being exposed loads and loads of times and now it looks like the whole deck of cards has fallen down.
So I think if I could have one thing back from the glory days, which weren't so long ago, I would say is to get that pressing game, get that aggression back into the game. Because I think that almost covers up a whole load of deficiencies that possibly the team could have. So that's a problem.
Now around that, there will be investment. Liverpool do need a midfielder, preferably a younger one, because obviously there's no escaping the likes of Thiago, Henderson and Milner, Fabinho, they're not going to be around forever. They're all in the latter stages of their careers.
So I do think there needs to be investment, but Jürgen Klopp isn't stupid. He knows that as well and he'll go and do that. But as I say, despite the dozen or so things that Liverpool fans are complaining about in terms of their team at the moment, if I had my choice and had one thing that I could bring back into this team it would be to get that press right again at the top of the pitch.
I don't really believe in this magic one thing in football. I really don't.
That's why, as I've just alluded to, there's about ten things that you could justifiably point at Liverpool and say this isn't happening, this isn't happening, compared to the past.
So no, as much as I think Bellingham would be the most incredible signing and I think he's the most unbelievable player. It could solve a whole load of problems for a whole load of years in that position. I literally would break the bank for him. I can't speak highly enough of him.
But not one player is going to change what's happening at Liverpool at the moment. This is a knock-on thing of lots and lots of little things.
As I say, there's been injuries, there's been a lack of press. Not a lack of press in terms of lack of effort, they just don't do it as well as they previously did. That might take time because obviously there are new players there.
So one player coming into midfield is not all of a sudden going to solve Liverpool's problems. I don't care who it is. But it is certainly going to provide a load of quality and provide somebody that's got absolutely everything and I think it would be an absolute massive signing.
But there's other parts of the team that need fixing as well. If Bellingham signs it's not going to fix everything.
Liverpool have shown throughout the season that it's not like they're playing poorly every week. It wasn't so long ago they beat Manchester United 7-0.
I remember earlier in the season when they beat Manchester City 1-0. That was a brilliant performance and a brilliant game. That was Liverpool right at their best as well.
You can point to other games. I think they beat Bournemouth 9-0 and they absolutely hammered Rangers up at Ibrox. There's been some good in amongst the bad, but obviously, there's been a lot of inconsistency and on the whole it's been very disappointing.
But at Anfield, they remain obviously a very difficult team to play against. Put it this way, I mean, if you ask Arsenal the last place you want to go at the moment, you'd still say Anfield.
I mean, nobody wants to play at Anfield, it's such a fortress. Liverpool have still got that. So it's going to be a very, very tricky one Arsenal.
Listen, it's going to be hard for Liverpool as well because this Arsenal team look the real deal, don't they? So it's going to be a fascinating game. But I obviously wouldn't rule Liverpool out with the Anfield factor.
Oh yeah, I do. I mean, they've got a decent sized squad. It's not like they're in European competition. They're not in any of the cups now. They're fully focused just on the Premier League.
So very soon, it's basically going to be one game a week. You're not going to have to rotate and rest and things like that. There's only nine or ten games to go of the season. And there's still eight weeks to go or something.
So it's not a crowded schedule for them. They're definitely going to have the freshness to keep going. And they've got the ability, they've got the players, they've got the fan base, they've got the manager, it feels like there's something special brewing up there.
So they've definitely got the means to qualify in the top four. In fact, I think they will be in the top four by the end of the season. They had a little wobble, but did you see the fixtures around that time? I mean, they were playing a lot of really tough games.
Now I'd be very positive towards Newcastle.
Yeah, I think Declan would make an impact in most teams, to be honest. Even Liverpool could do with someone like Declan. I think virtually every team would love to have him in their team.
I guess it's looking around at the teams who needs him most and who's willing to pay and whether West Ham would sell.
But I do think after this season, it's going to be difficult for West Ham to keep him. He's given great service and he probably wants to be competing in a team that can win trophies, can challenge and play in the Champions League etc.
So I think there'll be a lot of teams sniffing around Declan. Newcastle will definitely come into the equation.
I mean it looks an upwardly mobile club and it looks like a club that you'd be excited about the future. So I'm sure he'll have one eye on that if Newcastle are in for him.
But if a team like Manchester United, or Manchester City or Liverpool are in for him, my suspicion is that those types of teams are still slightly ahead of Newcastle as we stand at the moment and that he would probably prefer to join one of those.
Well, it's very difficult. They've got a very balanced team.
To me, it feels like the manager is there to stay, and rightly so. I think he's a brilliant manager. I like the way that Newcastle haven't just gone and spent and spent and spent like everybody thought they would. They've actually done it quite calculated.
Yes, they've brought in players, but they've done it in a gradual way. When you buy too many players too quickly, I don't ever think it works. If it is going to work, it's going to take a lot of time. So I think doing it in a gradual way has been the right thing.
Newcastle's challenge is now going to be, if they can get into let's say fourth position for argument's sake, Newcastle's next challenge is obviously to probably cement the top four next season and then maybe start pushing towards a Premier League title.
Now for that, you need absolute world-class players. That can't happen overnight. To entice world-class players, you need to be consistently up there, consistently looking like you could win a league or you are gonna regularly qualify in the Champions League and things like that.
So again, slowly, slowly, they'll be able to entice one or two players. The players that are there at the moment, keep improving them like Eddie Howe's done.
And eventually you'll be able to do it, but nothing will happen in the space of 1/2 years. It'll be a longer-term project to obviously go and be challenging for the top honours. But the way things are going you couldn't put it past Newcastle doing that in the next five years or so.
Yeah, I do. A lot of it, to be honest.
Manchester United are doing very well at the moment, but they're doing very well on paper. As pure results go, they're doing very well.
But they still, when I watch them, they still don't strike me as, "oh, my word, Manchester United are back. They're tearing teams apart and winning easily". I'm still a fair way from being convinced that that's going to happen.
I think that they've got the right manager in place. I think there's a buzz about the club at the moment that they need, that every club needs. But I think the actual playing staff is still some way short of being... put it this way, if the league was starting today, I wouldn't have Manchester United as being challengers to Arsenal and Manchester City just yet.
I still think they need more in their team. They're desperate for a centre-forward. Well, in the main, that is their absolute must for next season. Chelsea and Manchester United have got to go out and try to find a world-class centre-forward, both of them. But I do think that Manchester United are still a few players short.
I think their squad is getting better. I think as I say, Ten Hag is doing a very good job and he looks like he's going to be the right man. But I do think they're short on quality compared to the likes of Arsenal and Manchester City at the moment.
If they finish in the top four, then I'd say it's massively successful. Let's remember where Manchester United have been for the last, whatever it's been 10/15 years. Certainly since Sir Alex Ferguson left.
Yes, there's been one or two trophies, but it's been that much of a struggle the last few years, and I think winning a trophy and qualifying for the Champions League would be a giant, a giant step forward compared to what everybody probably expected at the start of the year.
I think it would be a huge success and at the moment they're sat on 50 points is it? It's looking likely that they should finish in the top four. As I say with the trophy already under their belt then it's looking like a decent season.
But obviously they're Manchester United at the end of the day. They won't settle for this but I'm sure the fans will have settled for it at the start of the season as a stepping stone to bigger things.
Well, obviously they're in a very strong position, they're in pole position.
They have got some tricky fixtures to come, they've got to go to Anfield, they've got to go to the Etihad, Manchester City have got a game in hand.
So as much as if you look at the league table in black and white at the moment, you think, oh wow, they're not going to get caught. When you actually delve into it, Arsenal have got, in my opinion, a far harder run in than Manchester City and as I say, there's still a game in hand.
So I wouldn't say it's a total toss of a coin, in terms of their chances. You'd way prefer to be in Arsenal's position with the points in the bag.
But there's a lot of ways you could justify an argument to say, Manchester City can win it or will win it because they've got the experience, they've got an easier running, they've got to play Arsenal at home. They've got a game in hand. Arsenal have got a trickier running.
It's very difficult. You can make a case for both, of course.
Yeah, I do. I do.
I think there's only two teams there in the bottom half of the table that have kept their manager. I was reading last night and I'm trying to think who they are... Nottingham Forest are definitely one of them. Oh and West Ham with David Moyes.
It does feel like the rumours are that Nottingham Forest and Steve Cooper are on the rocks a little bit, which I think would be a massive mistake. I think the job he's done there is incredible and I think he deserves to be allowed to complete a season in the Premier League for what he's done.
He's done it the hard way as a manager as well. He's come up through the ranks and just had amazing results and he's done an amazing job at Forrest.
There's another example of lots of players coming into a team all at once and it's a struggle.
But anyway, I do think there might be another manager maybe to go. I guess Steve Cooper would be the favourite from that point of view, even though I would totally disagree with it.
It's been a sacking season, lots of teams panicking. And to be honest, I can't believe a lot of them. I mean, Chelsea, I can't believe that they got rid of Tuchel. I mean, what they'd give to have Tuchel back managing now. Who are they going to find that's as good as Tuchel? That was a head-scratcher for me.
I was surprised at Crystal Palace and Patrick Vieira. I was surprised at Leicester with Brendan Rodgers. I think there's been some surprises.
There's an inevitability that there's going to be half a dozen a year, but I have been surprised at a few this year. I think there's been a lot of chairmen that have pulled the trigger too early.
I like Graeme Potter and I was desperate for him to succeed, being an English coach and, from the outside, knowing how hard it is to gel so many players into a team so quickly.
I almost felt that he had too many good players. Keeping everybody happy is such a difficult thing for a manager, especially in the Chelsea dressing room. But at the end of the day, the results were really poor.
There was a case, to be honest about a month ago, I thought they had a real opportunity to sack Graham Potter and I thought when they let that one pass and they let him continue. I thought "oh fair play this is gonna be a long-term one then" because if they had any inkling then it would have been back then.
Then all of a sudden they get through in the Champions League against Dortmund and I think right, things are starting to look rosy and he'll definitely get to the end of the season.
Then all of a sudden he's sacked after a bad result against Aston Villa so I was slightly surprised. I thought it would have happened about a month ago if it was gonna happen, but I don't think he can have massive complaints because even talking about those tough circumstances that he was facing, he would still have expected to get a lot better results than he got.
Not sure about that really. I think you can have seasons like that, a bit of an anomaly.
Who would have predicted that Fulham, Brentford and Brighton would be where they are? Normally you'd say that they could be in the mid-table. Aston Villa have come from nowhere and all of a sudden they're in a European place. Nobody could have seen that.
I mean the mid-table team at the minute are probably Chelsea, aren't they? They have got nothing to play for. I can't imagine they're going to get into Europe and they're certainly not going to be looking over their shoulder either. So I suppose Chelsea are the one team at the moment that you think have they got anything to play for?
So yeah, there's no mid-table. By this stage of the season you're normally thinking there's a lot of dead rubber games, mid-table teams, but I don't think you can say that this year at the moment.
But no, I don't think that there's a massive gap in the Premier League. In fact, there's no real team that's been cut off either. The relegation battle is going to go right to the wire. So that's an amazing thing for the Premier League as well.
No, I just think it's a brilliant year. Nobody knows, it's a toss of a coin for the league title, everything's up in the air for Champions League and European places and for the relegation fight.
I think it's really good for the Premier League that there's not many teams in the middle of the table there that have got nothing to play for. There's still loads to play for.
Well, I've changed my mind about 100 times this season.
I think I've always been quite consistent thinking Southampton and Bournemouth would go. So I don't really want to change my mind there.
As things stand, I really worry for Leicester, I must admit. Losing their manager, the lack of investment in their team in recent times. I do worry for Leicester.
There's other teams of course, Nottingham Forest are really in the danger. Leeds look as if they're picking up under their new manager. They've rocketed up and I can't see Everton going down. I can't see West Ham going down or Crystal Palace.
Yeah, if I had to say at the moment, I'd probably say Southampton, Bournemouth and... maybe Leicester. Maybe Leicester. Leicester or Forest, but probably maybe Leicester.
Not a specific moment, no. I mean, I was managed by lots and lots of great managers over the years, but his record will stand the test of time, won't it? It'd be one of the greatest managers of all time.
No, I mean, just looking from the outside, 26 years, was it, as Manchester United manager? And in that time, football has changed unbelievably. The way football clubs have run, the amount of staff now. The things you've got to manage in today's game are just totally, totally different to what they were 26 years ago. Or longer, actually, in his case.
But I think being able to manage over that period of time and adapt with the change and adapt with the times, I think that's just unbelievable how he did that over such a long period of time.
His knowledge about football. He rarely coached, I mean he never got onto the training ground. I was there for three years, and he rarely got onto the training ground and coached any of the players. But he managed and that's what it says on the tin. The first team coaches that's what they're there to do, to coach the first team and he manages everything, he looks over everything. Then on Saturday, he takes over and you absolutely know who the manager is at that point.
No I was just impressed as a whole and if I were to go into management which not got any plans to do but I would certainly take a lot of what I saw him do into the role.
It was funny actually because right when I first joined the club, we'd be training on a Friday and the manager a lot of the time would call me over. I'd be like, "oh right".
I mean normally the manager calls you over if he's going to drop you from the team or you're going to be playing or whatever and just sort of, either cushion the blow or get you mentally prepared or whatever.
He called me over at the end of training I was like "Oh my god, I'm going, I'm starting! Right result!" So I walk over to him and he puts his arm around me and he says "so... I've seen you got a runner at Chepstow today, what do you what do you think of his chances?"
But no, we had we share a lot of the same passions. Even now, I mean, I was only speaking to him yesterday on the phone for about 20 minutes, he's still got horses at my stables. We still talk about football. He's just a great man and he's interested in all the things I'm interested in.
Not really, no is the honest answer.
As I mentioned earlier, I think things like that are what fans do in terms of when you're a professional, it's part and parcel of the game, moving clubs and moving here and there and everything else.
It's almost unspeakable for a fan to ever contemplate support in another team but in the game with managers, with players, that's just what happens.
And that's why fans will always get annoyed and point fingers and say that players have got no loyalty and all the rest of it.
But players would be exactly the same as fans if they weren't good at kicking the ball around. They'd only have one team and they'd support them through thick and thin and everything else.
Going into a dressing room coming from a club, I'd been to Real Madrid, I'd then gone to Newcastle and then came to Manchester United. So it's not like I left Liverpool and went to the arch-rivals straight away. Everybody knows that I was desperate to go back to Liverpool at every opportunity.
But when you've got a career, you have to look after it and try to play at the highest level for as long as you can, etc. I think players understand that.
And all the players that don't, I mean, it makes me chuckle. Because all the players that say, “oh no I'd never play for this team, I'd never play for that team”, they're talking through their arse. Absolutely through their arse.
Because okay, you wouldn't if you had the choice, but if you haven't got the choice in a lot of cases, or it was the difference between playing in a relegation team or playing in a Champions League team, or whatever the reason, then people would.
And I could give a million examples and literally blow people's image apart when everyone thinks that this player and that player are such great club men that only play for one. Well I can tell you that if things went wrong and they got dropped from the team or anything else like that, then you'd be amazed to know, put it that way.
So I take a lot of the lot stick because it just fell that way that my career fell that way and I couldn't get back to Liverpool after I went to Real Madrid and things like that. But I know that I'm no different to the next man on the street, and as I say things like that don't really get spoken about in dressing room, it's more of a fan's, sort of, they get on their high horse.
I think the first time I needed to adapt my game was probably at Newcastle. When I first joined Newcastle, I still felt as if I was the Michael Owen that I always wanted to be and all I always was as a kid.
I played a natural game, just an instinctive game. If I thought I had to run in behind, I'd run in behind. But I think, and I think I was like that for the first six months at Newcastle until I broke my foot away at Tottenham and then subsequently did my knee playing for England. So there was a year and a half period really that I was out of action.
I think coming back from that, as much as I was very, very fit and strong coming back and my knee was in as good a shape as ever and I had the most incredible rehab. I think from that moment onwards I started losing a little bit of my pace and then it was a gradual process of having to change my game.
In fact, once Kevin Keegan came into manage, he put me in sort of a number 10 role and put Viduka and Martins up front. I sort of played at the point of a diamond in midfield in behind and I think Kevin Keegan saw that and actually spoke to me about dropping into midfield later on in my career at Newcastle.
So yeah I think it was at that point probably Kevin Keegan saw it. I felt it, that I could still offer different things in a different way, but that greyhound pace in behind centre half was possibly becoming a thing of the past.
Yeah, it was different. That was one of the attractions, I suppose, is that if you retire and you've not seen anything different, and you've been offered the chance to play for a great team like Real Madrid, I thought, I'd regret missing the opportunity, I suppose.
But playing in and living in a different climate, with a different language, different players, that stage, that kit, that history behind and the club and all the rest of it was too much to turn down, I suppose.
But yeah, it was very strange. I suppose not having any friends and having to make new friends and my wife being the same and not having a house and having to live in a hotel for a few months and things like that. It was quite tricky from a personal point of view.
For the football side, I felt that I took to it like a duck to water. I mean, I loved it. I was scoring goals, I was matey with a lot of the players.
As I say, the little bits, the nitty gritty things, if we had, let's say, a game on a Saturday and we were training on a Wednesday and Ronaldo says to me, "you coming for a game of golf after training?" it's very hard to say no when you're trying to make new friends and all the rest of it.
But you forget that you've been away Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, or Monday, Tuesday, let's say you've been in the Champions League in Italy or something, you're then going in a hotel Thursday night for Friday for Saturday's game and then you end up never being at home or never being in your own hotel room and your wife is there with a one-year-old child on her own and I'm saying "oh I'm off to play golf now for four or five hours", it wasn't easy, let's say that.
Obviously people will always criticize and say what more do you want? But trust me, living in a hotel for four or five months when your wife struggles to drive on the other side of the road and you've got a one-year-old child and things like.
It was very hard off the pitch for my wife to settle. I could appreciate that but also I had to try to ingratiate myself and become friends with team members as well, so it was a tricky period, but as I say on the pitch it was absolutely great.
Well, as you know, I'm heavily involved in horse racing. It's a passion of mine. It's my business. But my game is on the flat. So this jump racing is not my game.
However, I still take a keen interest. I think it's a great sport. I think the Grand National is an iconic race around the world, that's attended by tens of thousands and watched by millions.
It's a great race and I think over time they've made it even better, they've made it safer, they've made it more appealing. It's a race in the jumping calendar that everybody's absolutely desperate to win.
To be honest, I haven't really had a look at the big race yet! I think the standard of the race has risen over recent years. I mean, after all, it's a handicap.
But I think, in recent years, you need to be a top-notch horse to win it, whereby maybe 50 years ago, you could be down at the bottom of the handicap and with not such a good horse. But now you need to be an exceptionally good horse just to get in the race.
I haven't looked at the race yet, I must admit. I'm going to go and watch the day before on the Friday, but I'm not going to the Grand National itself.
I suppose, and I'd forget the name of the horse, but I suppose Nicky Henderson, one of the top trainers in jump racing, there'll be a lot of headlines around his horse because he's won virtually every race there is to win and had the most illustrious career but he still hasn't won the Grand National. I think he's got one runner this year so it'd may be a poignant moment if he won it.
Well, the thing with racing is your horses don't know who owns them and things like that. So you're all of an equal from that point of view.
But no, Her Majesty the Queen owned, what? I'd be guessing, but maybe 60 horses in training. And of course, at my stables, we've got probably about 110 horses. So it's quite inevitable. I mean, most weeks, we'd have a runner against a Queen's runner.
But yeah at Chester that day it was pretty much, even though there's more horses in the race, it was pretty much, in the betting anyway, a bit of a two-horse race and I had myself and the Queen had pretty much the joint-favourites and obviously, it was my local track and all the rest of it. So I'd like to say the Queen let me win that one.
But no, it was always great when you see the Queen's colours donned at the races. They're just special iconic colours, and yeah and to beat one of the horses at my local track and win a big race was pretty special.
I've still got the newspaper article! I've still got it on my phone, so when anyone has a go at me or anything else like that sometimes I'll just send them the picture saying that I'm the Queen's favourite football player.
But yeah, I remember reading those quotes. A massive honour, obviously, to meet Her Majesty on quite a few occasions and going down in the royal parade at Royal Ascot on the carriages, that will be a moment that myself and my wife will never forget.
So yeah, some special memories and obviously she was a wonderful woman.