- Michael Owen part of panel deciding FIFA Puskás Award winner
- Former England forward scored over 200 goals during career
- Describes his goal at 1998 FIFA World Cup as his career best
How can you define the perfect goal? That is the unenviable task faced by ten legends of the game in their role as the panel deciding the winner of the FIFA Puskás Award. A public vote has determined the top three from the initial shortlist of ten goals and it is from this trio of wonder strikes – scored by Lionel Messi, Juan Fernando Quintero and Daniel Zsori – that the panel must decide who will take home the 2019 FIFA Puskás Award.
On that panel is Michael Owen, no stranger to goals, having netted 40 for England and more than 150 across a club career at some of the world’s biggest sides – including Liverpool, Real Madrid and Manchester United.
FIFA.com caught up with the former frontman to get his take on those three strikes and what makes a great goal.
FIFA.com: Do any of the finalists’ goals remind you of one you’ve scored in your career?
Michael Owen: I didn’t take free-kicks, so that rules me out of [Quintero’s]. An overhead kick was something I could do though, I scored a semi-overhead kick against Arsenal once. I think Messi's goal, chipping the goalkeeper, I did once or twice. I don’t recall them being very similar though! I scored one against Newcastle for Liverpool at the Kop end of Anfield when we won 1-0 - I chested it, hit it over the goalkeeper, it hit the crossbar and went in so I suppose it’s similar in that regard. But it was from inside the box from a tighter angle, so a different kind of technique to Messi’s. So none of them are too close…
If there was a Puskás Award just for goals scored by Michael Owen, which would make the top three?
The goal for England against Argentina at the '98 World Cup would probably be my number one, and I guess could have been a Puskás Award nominee if it had existed back then! And then, it was only two or three games after that World Cup, we played Newcastle away, and I scored one that was my third goal of a hat-trick. It was famous because I rubbed my hands together as a celebration, so that would be up there. And I think another against Newcastle, the one that I just mentioned, where I chested it down and chipped the goalkeeper and we won 1-0. That would be my top three.
The Messi goal: That goal was scored by a genius. When that ball is coming to you from that angle, it’s very difficult to get lots of power on the ball without it going very high. And chipping the goalkeeper like he does, he has no room for any error. It was a precise finish. I’m trying to think of his alternatives from there, but it was the only type of finish he could have scored with.
The Quintero goal: It’s very rare you would score from there of course. And it obviously takes something special from that far out and at that angle. A left-footed player probably has an advantage there with the whip you can get. Not many people would even try to score from there, so if you’re watching the game you’re thinking 99 per cent he’s going to cross there, so he may have caught the goalkeeper by surprise, but it had to be so accurate to score from there.
The Zsori goal: When I put myself in his position when I was playing, two or three other things would have probably entered my head before what he did. Maybe the last thing I’m doing is thinking of shooting. The ball is far from goal, it’s a difficult ball to control, he’s going away from goal, the ball is high, naturally I’m thinking who can I lay the ball off to or try to keep it. So it’s not only the quality of the goal that’s amazing, it’s the technique, it’s the vision. I’d like to think that when I played, I was always thinking in every situation ‘how can I score?’ but I can’t believe it’s even entered his head to think it’s a goalscoring opportunity. So for the creativity, the bravery and then of course the technique – all wonderful.
What’s the best goal you’ve ever seen?
One of the goals that took my breath away more than any was [Marco] Van Basten’s volley [against USSR at UEFA EURO 1988]. I was impressionable and young at the time, but again, it was one of those where you don’t think there is any way he can shoot and put it on target. Maybe he puts the cross way too high or he takes a touch and tries to do something with it, but all of a sudden he hits it and there is only one place it can go. And the shape, technique, everything, it took my breath away as a young player.
What about on the pitch when you were playing? Was it harder to be shocked when you’re in the midst of it?
No sometimes when something special happens, you do think ‘wow’ and sometimes it can even break your concentration for a little while. I played against Thierry Henry when he scored a goal for Arsenal against Liverpool at Highbury, and that was one of those moments. He beat a lot of players, faked to shoot, beat another player and then scored, and even though you feel the disappointment, I did think ‘wow that’s a great individual goal’.