Michael Owen has opened up on the heartbreak of never returning to Liverpool and reveals he even had several break clauses in his Newcastle contract to facilitate a transfer to Anfield.
Owen, aged 17, scored on his debut for Liverpool against Wimbledon in May 1997, he went on to play seven seasons, mainly under Gerard Houllier and ended up with 158 goals for the Reds in 297 games.
The Chester-born striker won a host of cups with Reds, including the 2001 UEFA Cup and also collected numerous personal accolades including two Premier League Golden Boot awards.
The former England man says he never dreamed of leaving and describes it as his club, until he got a call from his agent one day.
Owen told Gary Neville’s Soccerbox on Sky Sports: “I was doing well at Liverpool, winning trophies and I was named European player of the year, everything was great and I never wanted to leave, then my agent phoned me and said Real Madrid have shown an interest.
“Carragher was in the room when I took the call and I said ‘oh my God mate Madrid want me’ and he said ‘don’t go they’ve got Raul, Ronaldo Morientes you won’t play’.
“We were big mates, room mates and if he thought it would have been good for my career he would have said so…
“I just couldn’t work it out. I didn’t want to leave, but if I said no I’d regret this. I spoke to Rafa Benitez and he said if you want to go then that’s it. I drove to the airport and cried all the way there, I was leaving something so perfect, but on balance I had to try it.”
Owen spent three seasons in LaLiga before returning to the Premier League with his heart set on an emotional reunion at Liverpool.
Owen said: “I did everything. It was agreed I was going to leave Madrid, the president came to see me before the last game of the season and they wanted to buy Sergio Ramos from Sevilla and needed the money from my sale to buy him.
“I flew back to Liverpool and then Newcastle had made an offer of £16m and the president said to me you either go to Newcastle of you stay.
“Liverpool had to match it and they said they could only go to £10m, but I decided on Newcastle and I had it in my contract I could go to Liverpool after a year, and after two years and the fee would come down and we let Liverpool know.
“Newcastle was great, but I wanted to go to Liverpool. Unfortunately in the summer when I could have gone I did my cruciate in the World Cup and after that Suarez was there, Torres was there.
“At every opportunity I tried to get back to Liverpool, but it just never happened.”