When Michael Owen took the decision to leave Liverpool in the summer of 2004, it did not go down especially well with supporters of the club. He had emerged from the Liverpool academy to become a global superstar, but many felt betrayed when he entered the final 12 months of his contract and moved to Real Madrid for a cut-price fee.
It would emerge in the following years that was not really how the move went down, and Owen was always torn about the move to La Liga. On one hand he wanted to play for perhaps the world's biggest club and experience a new culture, but leaving the only team he had ever known was a huge decision.
Ultimately he decided to go, but he assumed he would return to Liverpool after a year or two. Of course such a move would never materialise, with Owen instead moving to Newcastle after one season in Madrid.
He spent the remainder of his career trying to get back to Anfield, but the timing was just never right.
While returning to Liverpool was always his goal, he doesn't regret leaving. Speaking to exclusively to Balls.ie this afternoon after his book signing in Dublin, Owen revealed that he has no regrets over moving to Real Madrid:
Do you go to Liverpool, or do you try something totally new? Everyday I was waking up thinking one thing and then the other. Even going to the airport I was crying thinking what I left behind.
It wasn't an easy decision, but I made my decision. I had almost convinced myself that you can always go back, and that's why I thought 'I'm going to have to give this a go and just hope in the future that I'll be able to sign'.
Times moves on and I've got no complaints. Other strikers have to fill that void, Torres signs, later Suarez signs. The vital times that I needed Liverpool to need a striker and I was available, it didn't happen.
I'm a grown man and can understand that, as much as part of me thinks that I'd have liked to stay at Liverpool for all of my career, I've had experiences that other people haven't.
Michael Owen never got his dream move back to Anfield, but he holds no regrets over his transfer to Real Madrid. pic.twitter.com/CZL2gwtzvM
— Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) September 13, 2019
In many ways, the timing of his move could not have been worse for Owen. Barcelona were becoming the dominant force in Spain, meaning his time at Real Madrid was trophyless. Meanwhile, his old club were about to claim the biggest prize of all.
Seeing Liverpool lift the European Cup in Istanbul must have been tough for the Englishman, even if he was happy for his former team mates. Ultimately, these are the risks you take in any transfer.
What do you do? You're pleased for the lads that you know, you're disappointed you didn't win it, especially with the time I had spent at the club since I was 10 or 11 years old.
Of course there's a little bit of 'what if'? Then again, life goes like that. If I had stayed I might not have won a league, I might not have won another League Cup or had other experiences in my life.
I certainly wouldn't have lived in Spain, spoke a new language and met new people, play in in the greatest stadiums with the greatest players, score in El Clasico and all these great things.
Yes I could have had an extra trophy, yes I would have loved to win the Champions League. But I've had so many other things because of that decision.
That's just life, it's fine. There was always going to be something that happened when you're not there, and something that you wouldn't have had if I didn't go.
You can listen to our full exclusive interview with Michael Owen here.