Working with BT Sport tonight during their Premier League coverage, former Liverpool striker Michael Owen spoke openly about his battles with injuries as a player, and the misconceptions that are attached to his career as a whole.
Although scarcely a universally liked pundit, Owen was praised by certain viewers for his honesty when discussing some of the difficulties he faced. Conceding that he had had his fair share of unfortunate injuries, Owen insisted that a closer examination of his career would demonstrate that he was 'not always injured' as some suggest.
Referencing a loosely-sourced statistic from 'a couple of years ago,' Owen pointed out that by the age of 22, he had played virtually twice as many games as the likes of Wayne Rooney, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes and Steven Gerrard.
Something of a throwaway comment, it nevertheless appeared rather jarring when one took a minute to examine the careers of those players in question.
Rooney, Giggs, Scholes and Gerrard 👀
"By the time we were all about 22, I'd virtually played double the amount of games than all of them"#PLTonight pic.twitter.com/uIouIuyM2x
— Football on BT Sport (@btsportfootball) August 25, 2018
Taking games for both club and country into question, Owen had in fact played fewer games by the age of 22 than all but the former Manchester United midfielder Scholes.
According to the statistics website Soccerbase, by the time he reached his 22nd birthday on 14 December 2001, Owen had made 150 competitive appearances between Liverpool and England.
By comparison, when Wayne Rooney turned 22 on 24 October 2007, the same site reports that he had played 201 competitive games between his time with Everton, Manchester United and England.
Ryan Giggs, who turned 22 on the 29 November 1995 and made his first senior appearance with Manchester United against Everton in the old First Division in March 1991, had similarly played more than the 70-odd games Owen was giving him credit for.
According to 11v11, by the time he turned 22 Giggs had already played 190 games for United, and a further handful for Wales.
In the case of Owen's former club-mate Steven Gerrard, the same site points out the inaccuracy of Owen's claims. Turning 22 on 30 May 2002, Gerrard had featured in 145 competitive games for Liverpool and England. Certainly lower than Owen's tally, it was nevertheless nowhere near half the amount.
Although the potential for minor inaccuracies exist within each of these collated numbers, it is fairly certain that Owen's claim to have played twice as many games as these players by the age of 22 is well wide of the mark.
While variables such as appearances as a substitute are difficult to determine, they do not mask the audacity of the claim.
Furthermore, in terms of games played over the course of their respective careers, not one of the players Owen named played fewer games than he managed. In the case of Giggs particularly, the Welshman comfortably played twice as many.