29 Apr 2017

World-Class Series [No8]: Michael Owen (Liverpool, Man Utd, England). Was he 'world-class'?

Michael Owen is the only British Ballon d'Or winner in the last 38 years, but was he a world-class player?

World Class: My Definition

Before a player can be deemed 'world-class', he/she must have a Specific, Measurable Impact (SMI) at all three levels of football, and push his/her team to relative success at all three levels.

The Three Levels

* Domestic: National leagues.

* European: Champions League, Europa League, or equivalent.

* World: International - qualifying and/or tournaments.

Relative Success: OAL and SMI

* What is the the team's Optimum Achievement Level (OAL) in a given competition? In other words, based on historical performance, what is the absolute best the team can realistically expect to achieve?

* Causation: The player's causal contribution to his team's OAL. To what extend did the player in question help the team to meet its OAL? But for the player under consideration, would the team still have achieved its OAL?

* A variety of objective, position-specific criteria should be used when assessing the SMI of players. For example, for attacking players: Goals; assists; conversion rate; key passes; shot-assists; passing accuracy etc. For defenders: goals conceded; blocks; aerial duels won; tackle success rate etc.

* Players in inferior teams are still capable of being 'world class' as long as their SMI is such that they excel, and push their team to achieve its OAL (though in all cases, SMI at all three levels is required).


* SMI at Domestic Level: Premier League: 181 goals/assists in 326 apps (One every 127 mins). Liverpool: 20+ goals in 5 of his 7 seasons at the club. Helped the Reds win 3 domestic trophies (2x League Cup; 1x FA Cup; Scored 3 goals in 3 finals). 2002: 25 goals/assists propelled Liverpool to a 2nd place finish in the Prem. 1998: Prem 'Player of the Season'. 1998: PFA 'Young Player of the Year'. 1998/1999: 2x Prem Golden Boot winner. Man Utd: Won the League Cup (2010) and League title (2011). Real Madrid: 17 goals in 45 apps (One every 143 mins).

* SMI at European Level: Liverpool: 30 goals/assists in 51 games (One every 133 mins). Champions League: 8 goals/assists in 15 apps (One every 157 mins). 2001: Helped LFC win the UEFA Cup and UEFA Super Cup. 2001: Won the 'European Player of the Year' award (Ballon d'Or).

* SMI at International level: England: 50 goals/assists in 89 games (One every 124 mins). Euros/WC Qualifying: 25 goals/assists in 34 apps (One every 111 mins). Euros/World Cup Finals: 9 goals/assists in 19 apps (One every 138 mins).

- Youngest England goalscorer at a World Cup finals. Fastest England goal at the Euros. Most consecutive goalscoring tournaments (4 in a row). Liverpool's most prolific England player ever.

* Conclusion: Owen excelled at all 3 levels of football. He played a major role in Liverpool's domestic/European trophies under Gerard Houllier; pushed Liverpool to a 2nd place league finish in 2002, and was regularly Liverpool's top scorer. Qualification goals/assists helped England qualify for 4 major tournaments (2x World Cup; 2x Euros). Euro 2008: 6 goals/assists in 5 qualification games before getting injured. Without Owen, England crashed and burned, and failed to qualify. Owen also contributed 9 goals/assists in various World Cup/Euros finals.

* Verdict: World-Class (between 1998 and 2004)


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