By Chris Myson
For many Liverpool fans, the prospect of seeing Michael Owen make a dramatic return to Anfield is simply too much to stomach.
The 32-year-old striker, who scored 158 goals in 297 games for the Reds over eight seasons earlier in his career, remains a free agent still looking for a club.
After Liverpool suffered a disappointing 2-0 loss against previously impotent Arsenal at Anfield on Sunday, capping their worst start to a league season since 1962, manager Brendan Rodgers made some eye-catching comments in his press conference.
The ex-Swansea City boss admitted that he would not have sanctioned Andy Carroll’s move to West Ham had he known that the club would not have signed a replacement on transfer deadline day, with long-term target Clint Dempsey joining Tottenham instead.
That was a headline-grabbing statement on its own but there was much more to come when Rodgers confirmed that he is not ruling out snapping up former icon Owen on a free transfer.
The Northern Irishman said: “Any player I believe can improve the squad, I will look at. We’ve got a very small group, 19 players training yesterday morning, and some very young players in and amongst that.
“I can’t say no [about Owen], I always have to look and see where we can improve the group.”
Liverpool were awful against Arsenal, a club who themselves frustrated their fans with a wall of silence on deadline day as some of their rivals filled their boots with new recruits.
They lacked spark and ideas, looking particularly toothless going forward as Luis Suarez and Steven Gerrard both turned in sub-standard performances.
Even with Carroll on the books and before the embarrassment of not signing a replacement, it was being commonly acknowledged that the Reds were short of a frontman.
For all of Luis Suarez’s creativity and talent, he was struggling to put chances away, while his only backup was Fabio Borini, a player still young and unproven in the Premier League, who is being deployed as a winger for the time being.
There was need for a striker who had nous around the penalty box and a proven ability to put the ball in the net – qualities which Owen still has despite his questionable fitness record.
With the window now shut and very few options available as free agents, Rodgers is right to be looking at a potential swoop for Owen. He is short of players and the ex-England striker represents a solution.
Bringing back a former star has worked in the past when Liverpool brought back Robbie Fowler in 2006 and the Gunners themselves had a successful reunion with Thierry Henry just last season.
It is true that Owen was never held in the same regard as Fowler and he damaged his standing with the club’s fans with the way that he engineered a move to Real Madrid in 2004 and by going on to join the club’s fierce rivals Manchester United.
If it were Fowler at the same stage in his career, unattached and looking for a club, there would be no hesitation in signing him up. With Owen, there is still significant hostility from the Reds’ support and that is a factor which has to be considered.
In football terms though, the move could work – just as it did with Fowler and Henry. The Reds are going into this season with Raheem Sterling, a 17-year-old – a talented one no doubt, but still a novice – as a first-team regular. They are short of bodies, options and inspiration.
Whether or not Owen does get a return to Anfield, it looks increasingly likely that it will be a Premier League club he joins.
While he is a shadow of the player he was during his time at Liverpool, he can still be relied upon in front of goal and still has the knack to get himself into good positions in the penalty area, which is why some top-flight clubs are still courting him.
In an ideal world, Liverpool would not even need to consider bringing Owen back, but the Reds are not in a position to pick and choose. Uncertainty at board room level is mirrored on the pitch as new and old recruits struggle to come to terms with the demands of Rodgers’ style of play.
Owen’s potential signing would solve a lack of options at Rodgers’ disposal in the short-term and also add the type of player to the squad that Liverpool have needed at a relatively low financial cost, something which appears to fit well with the owners’ transfer policy this summer.
There is no doubt that re-signing Owen would be a desperate move, but desperate times call for desperate measures and a return for the striker might just make sense.
Follow Chris Myson on