Michael Owen on mega-rich footballers, TV punditry and singing with “lager in your eye”
The rivalry between the BT Sport and Sky Sports pundit teams is even more intense this season. Who would win a game of five-a-side?
Oh, that’s a good question. Who’s Sky got? Gary Neville, [Jamie] Redknapp, Carragher. We’ve got Scholesy, McManaman, David James, me, Owen Hargreaves. I’d say us – I think BT would win a five-a-side, yeah. That could be something to organise, actually, it’s given me an idea. I’ll cut you in on the profits!
More ex-players become pundits than managers these days. Is the allure of the TV studio stealing the Alex Fergusons and Bill Shankleys of tomorrow?
You could say that, but I’m not sure if it’s television’s fault or football’s. I did my first two [coaching] badges and it took me two years, and for your A and Pro Licence you’re looking at three or four. I was certainly a little put off by thinking I’ve got to dedicate another four years to the badges, and then after that: do you get a job, what level is it, if you don’t win a game from your first three is it a wasted six years? Going straight into television is far easier, less stress and you can choose where you want to live.
As a player, what was your most embarrassing initiation when joining a new team?
The proper initiation is when you initially get into the first team, and at Liverpool the initiation at the Christmas do was that you’d have to get up on stage with all the lads around you, pretend you had a microphone and sing a full song. Basically it’s how long you last before you get loads of drinks thrown at you. I sang Help! – the Beatles song – and I probably got to the second line before I got absolutely lashed on, but you have to keep trying even though you’ve got lager in your eye.
What about your spell at Real Madrid – did you, Zidane, Ronaldo, Becks and erm, Jonathan Woodgate ever go out on the town?
Spain is a social place. Me, Ronaldo and Cesar Sanchez – the second goalkeeper – used to go for nine holes of golf quite often after training. We did have a few meals out with partners and nights out with the lads, so it was quite a sociable club even though people probably associated it with big superstars who go home and drive their fast cars.
In retirement you set up a management company to advise young footballers. Liverpool boss Brendan Rodgers recently said young players are ‘spoilt’ with money – do you agree?
I hear what Brendan Rodgers is saying, but I look after more than a dozen young, promising football players now, [and] not one of them has ever mentioned finances to me. Up until I was 19 or 20, I didn’t even know what money was, really – I didn’t appreciate what it can buy you and how it can change your life. When I had a signing-on fee, I gave it to my mum to pay the mortgage off. I got another one: bought my mum a house. Another: bought my mum a car, then bought myself one. I was a multimillionaire at 18, and it’s not pleasant saying it, but it didn’t mean one jot to me, I just wanted to be the best player in the world.
You’re prolific on Twitter, and you receive a fair bit of abuse. How do you deal with trolls?
You sort of become used to when you’re going to take the flak. If you’re going to tweet anything about a round thing that’s got air in, then just don’t look at replies, because when you talk about football, all sense goes out of the window. People are almost more protective of their football club than they are of their wife. You could do something you shouldn’t do with someone’s wife, and they wouldn’t be as bothered as if you said their team played poorly last week.
Endorsements are big business in modern football but, as shown by Cristiano Ronaldo’s recent Japanese face exercise advert, they can also be quite daft. What’s the most embarrassing thing you’ve been asked to do?
I still take a bit of stick for ‘Cheese & Owen’ Walkers crisps, so I’ll have to live with that one. There was a Persil advert as well, but my mum mainly did it, I just came in at the end with a thumb up [and said], “Thanks Mum.” I also appeared out of a cupboard once, for a [Domino’s] pizza advert.
Finally, you recently told an interviewer you’ve only watched five films in your life. Can we presume you’re more of a TV box-set man, then?
Truth be known, I’m seriously busy. I literally don’t get a chance to sit down for two hours of a day, full stop, let alone watch a film. If I have got two hours and there’s live sport on, I’d watch that way ahead of a film. But that’s not to say if I did have time free I would watch a film, because I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve tried. Everyone says how good films are and I’m desperate to enjoy them too, but I just don’t get them. I get so bored and I’m permanently thinking, “He acted well”, “I wonder where that camera was” or “How many takes did they do?” I just can’t relax into a film knowing that it’s all nonsense.
Michael Owen is working with Shell V Power Nitro+ to explore some of Britain’s best drives. See more at youtube.com/shell