Michael Owen has said that injuries had left him “petrified” and made him hate playing football toward the end of his career.
Owen scored 262 goals in 571 career appearances for Liverpool, Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United, Stoke City and England.
He first suffered a torn hamstring at the age of 19, forcing him to spend five months on the sidelines, and a series of similar injuries seriously affected the second half of his career.
“Once I did it once I was gone really,” Owen told BT Sport. “I was quick, running in channels, beating people. That’s who I was — compared to the last six or so years when I turned into the only thing I could.
“I was petrified of running into a channel. I just knew I was going to tear a muscle. The worst thing about it is your instinct is to do what you have done all your life but you start thinking: ‘Oh no, don’t.'”
Injuries took their long-term toll on Owen, who admitted he could not play as the same kind of forward that he did early in his career.
“For six or seven years I hated it,” he added. “I couldn’t wait to retire.
“It wasn’t me. All I was doing is coming short, linking play and getting in the box. It ended up with people thinking I was a great goal scorer who didn’t do much else. Mentally I could do it, but physically I couldn’t.
“I admire people who can play for the love of the game. They may lose a yard of pace and they can go down a division or play against lesser teams — but, for me, it was turmoil.”