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Michael Owen names two Ballon d’Or favorites leaving out one serious contender. Also analyses UCL Final in detail.

The ex Liverpool and Real Madrid player has expressed his views on UEFA Champions League Final, the potential winner of Ballon De Ore, England’s chances in FIFA World Cup 2018 and gives a brief insight on his life after retirement. 

Published By: Dalipinder Singh Sandhu (Bliss)

Michael Owen expresses his views on the latest hot topic of his former teams playing against each other in his latest interview with the Spanish news outlet MARCA.

The 2001 Ballon De Ore winner sees Real Madrid as the likely ones to lift the trophy but believes that Liverpool are too good to be written off under any circumstances.

The ex-Manchester United player talked about the final and also addressed the potential surprises there can be for the fans. He talks about playing style of the English side and indicates that there will be a lot of goals scored in the match.

“There are two very different styles. Liverpool play very well against very good teams, like to win the ball quickly and head towards the goal. They don’t really build a lot of play, and they don’t worry too much about keeping possession, but they do look to take the ball away from the opposing defense and make fast counterattacks. I think it’s going to be a very good final, and I think with a lot of goals.”

Michael also analyses both the teams and points out to the upsets caused by Liverpool throughout the season. Though he mentions one weakness of the team when they struggle to score.

“Liverpool have achieved very important results against the great teams this season, and it is good for them to face clubs at the highest level. Maybe they don’t play so well against teams that only want to defend and put players behind the ball. With a natural game that’s so fast, they can beat anyone.

Even though Liverpool are known for scoring the notoriously high number of goals this season and have amazing forwards who showed their prowess in the big stages throughout. Michael Owen still believes that Real Madrid will enter the pitch as the favorites due to their experienced squad who have won 3 UCL titles in the last 4 years.

“Madrid is the favourite because when they need to win, they do. I already said at the beginning of the season, on UK television, that Real Madrid would win the Champions League again this year. Although now I see it more as a 50-50, because Liverpool are a very good team. It’s the perfect ending for me, my two teams. The strong point of Real Madrid is the experience they have in this type of match, and players as decisive as Cristiano Ronaldo, Isco…”

Micheal Owen believes that his former Liverpool side has improved and now is creating a balance of formidable attack and a decent defense with latest signings such as that of Van Dijk.

“Liverpool have been growing as a team little by little during the last few years and now they’re very strong. For several years they had a good attack but were very bad in defence, and now they are improving in that facet. Van Dijk is a player at a very high level, his arrival has helped a lot. It seems to me that Liverpool will be among the best teams in Europe during these coming few years. They won the Champions League in 2005, but didn’t have a particularly good team. For me, this team is better than the one that won it, and I think it will return Liverpool to the top table of European football.”

Micheal also discusses the situation of Gareth Bale in Real Madrid and predicts if Zinedine Zidane will start him in the UEFA Champions League Final this season.

“We saw what he did at Tottenham, he was brilliant, and the style of play was perfect for his characteristics. I can understand that he doesn’t start as many games as he would like, because Real Madrid have several incredible players, and it’s not just Gareth Bale who has to fight to be a starter.

“I think Bale will be among the substitutes, and will leave the bench to try to change the game if Madrid needs it. I don’t think that Zidane has him in his starting lineup, but I still think he is a great player and maybe he can have a great influence on this final.”

Micheal Owen claims he doesn’t really know if Gareth Bale has truly lived up to his potential in Real Madrid yet or is there more to be expected from him in the coming years.

“It’s hard to know the answer. I think he started very well, he was successful and he scored important goals, like the one he got in the Copa del Rey final. But I think it’s something that happens with all players: they can fit better in certain teams than in others, because their characteristics adapt better to one game system or another. The top players will always be very good wherever they are, but it is possible to be a phenomenon on a team and a little less on another, due to the fact that you have to play within a system that suits you better or worse.

He believes that Gareth Bale will be welcomed back in the United Kingdom if he is to leave Real Madrid due to lack of playing time.

“Bale has always been a very good athlete, very fast, he has always liked having plenty of space on the left wing, and he has been able to win games on his own. He is undoubtedly a top player, but in recent months his performance may not have been at the level that neither he nor Real Madrid would have liked. It will be interesting to see if he has something to say in the final, and it will also be interesting to see what happens next and see if he has a future at Real Madrid, because he is still a very valued player here in the United Kingdom, and many clubs would be interested in signing him if he is not a starter in Madrid.”

The British players have mostly done well in the English Premier League only and have not been able to replicate similar performances in other leagues. Michael Owen discusses the issue of English players finding it difficult to adapt in foreign leagues.

“Well, I don’t know if it’s true because for me it was a very good experience. I loved my time in Madrid. I felt that I had adapted well, I scored many goals, and I also think that David Beckham did very well in Madrid. Of course the Premier League is different from La Liga.

Owen also discusses the difference between English Premier League and La Liga. He expresses his first-hand experience of playing in both the leagues himself.

“In LaLiga, especially in Madrid, you have a lot of possession, so you have to be very good technically. In England you have to be very good physically, and technically as well, but maybe it is not as necessary as in Spain. In the English league we have been brought up in another way. From a very young age you need to be very physical, while in Spain this isn’t the most important attribute.”

The former Ballon De Ore winner was a Galactico signing for Real Madrid who now talks about his association with the club and how the club treats him.

“I loved playing at Real Madrid. I enjoyed it very much, the city is beautiful and the people are very friendly. I was quite young at that time, I think I was 24 years old or so, it was very exciting to have that experience, I enjoyed it a lot. The only problem for me was that I had great companions. Then I didn’t know if I was going to play a lot during the following year, and since it was a World Cup year, I wanted to be a starter in the English team.

“Real Madrid had signed me for eight million euros, and the president received an offer twice that amount and was satisfied. So I think we were both happy. Even now, after all this time, the club is still very good to me, they always tell me that I am a part of the family. I go there very often, I went to present the Ballon d’Or to Cristiano and I still feel part of the club, that makes me very happy.”

The former English player admits that he gave his best to the Spanish club and enjoyed his short duration in which he scored a decent number of goals.

“Yes, they gave me many opportunities, many games. I think I started 20 games, and I was a substitute for the same amount. But it was almost impossible for anyone to play all the minutes of all the matches with Raul, Ronaldo, Morientes… I think I scored in eight or nine consecutive games, also in El Clasico. I had great moments and I have great memories of being a Madrid player. For me, it was a great honor to play in the club.”

Michael Owen has already won one Ballon De Ore in 2001 and he discusses the possibility if he could compete with Leonel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo.

“[Laughs]. I believe that Ronaldo and Messi have changed football. I could have been the Ballon d’Or maybe when Ronaldo was starting at Manchester United or Messi at Barcelona, but when they reached their highest level it would have been impossible. Maybe now there are players who start to approach their level because they are getting older, but during the last ten years they have been far above all others.”

Micheal Owen predicts the Ballon De Ore winner of 2018. He thinks that Messi might not be up for the spot this time as Salah and Ronaldo are on a path to achieving bigger success.

“I think a lot will depend on who wins the Champions League. If Real Madrid wins, then Cristiano will be there once more. If Liverpool does it, Salah would be favourite. He has been absolutely brilliant this year, and has done very well in the Egypt team, taking them to the World Cup.”

Real Madrid are rumored to offload Gareth Bale and sign Mohammed Salah in the times to come but Owen doesn’t see Salah leaving Liverpool any time soon.

“I think it’s normal that Real Madrid are interested in all the best players in the world, that’s exactly how it has to be and how the club should work, but I don’t think Salah is going to leave. I think Salah is very happy at Liverpool, he has had a great season and will be a key part of the exciting times ahead”

Though England have one of the bright youngsters, Owen isn’t much realistic about the chances of whites in the upcoming FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia.

“I don’t have much confidence, but I hope so. I think we don’t have as good a team as in previous years. We have Harry Kane, who is very good and scores many goals, but we are not very clear for example who is the goalkeeper and that is a problem. In addition, there are already enough injuries, especially in the midfield.

“One good thing is that we had some luck with the draw because when leaving the group we would face a rival that’s not too strong. We really should be able to get to the quarterfinals without having to win against a really big team. The truth is that I don’t think we have the players to be able to win against teams like Brazil, Spain, France or Germany …”

Finally, Micheal Owen discusses his life after retirement. He explains his sources of income and is a lucky person to be earning from two of the things he holds close to his heart.

“I work in television covering the Premier League and the Champions League in the United Kingdom. I also have another job, several businesses, one of them is racing horses. Football and horses are my two passions, so I love my life. “

The UEFA Champions League Final will be played on 26th of May 2018 at 7:45 PM CET. The match will be telecasted live all over the world via the official broadcasting partners of UEFA.

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