LONDON: Former Manchester United and England striker Michael Owen insists he still has a future in the Premier League despite starting the new season without a club.
For the first time in his illustrious career, Owen spent the opening weekend of the English top-flight season out of work after failing to find a new club following his release by United at the end of last season.
The 32-year-old, whose goals helped Liverpool win the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup in 2001, would love to have been sniffing out scoring chances for a new team, but instead he had to follow the first round of Premier league fixtures from his sofa.
It is a remarkable fall from grace for a player who scored 40 goals in 89 England appearances and was regarded as one of the world's best forwards from the moment he scored that stunning solo strike against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup.
Although Owen has been ravaged by injuries over the last few years and is clearly in the twilight of his career, his talent for finding the back of the net still persuaded clubs in England and across Europe to register their interest during the close-season.
Yet the former Real Madrid and Newcastle star has so far been unable to find the right team.
He is solely focused on playing in the Premier League, ideally with a club who will give him more starting opportunities than he found at United, where he was often stuck on the substitutes' bench, while also ensuring he remains within easy reach of his family home in Cheshire.
Stoke have emerged as his most likely destination, with manager Tony Pulis and Owen's former England team-mate Peter Crouch both encouraging him to join them at the Britannia Stadium.
But Everton and Aston Villa have also been linked with Owen, who made just one Premier League appearance for United last season, and he is keeping his options open with two weeks left before the transfer window shuts.
“I'm wanting to play and eager to start again,” he told Sky Sports on Sunday.
“I want to play in the best possible team. If it was local to my house, excellent. I want to play more often, but that's not written in the contract.
“I don't really want to play in the Championship, I know I can still play in the Premier League and can still score goals.
“Obviously the question mark for any potential buyers is injuries but I just need a good run of games and I just didn't have that at Manchester United. I need to regularly train and play.
“There's been interest from all corners of the Earth, every nation you can think of - Germany, Italy, Spain, Turkey.
“My ideal is the Premier League, I want to play in the Premier League - then it's whoever's the best team, then things like location, the deal, different things will play a part.”
Alongside football, horse racing has played an increased role in Owen's life in recent years, with his interest in owning and breeding horses - his colt Brown Panther won June's King George V Stakes at Royal Ascot.
But he insists his passion for race day will never supplant football in his affections, even when his playing days are over.
“Football will always be my main passion and horse racing is a distant second,” he said.
“But footballers are often criticised for not planning ahead, you hear terrible stories about when footballers retire, about depression or having nothing to turn to, so it's about planning for life after football as well.”