Former England striker Michael Owen has announced he will retire from football at the end of the season.
The 33-year-old made his name with Liverpool and went on to play for Real Madrid, Newcastle and Manchester United before signing for Stoke at the start of this season.
But Owen, who has been dogged by injury in the latter stages of his career, has found opportunities very difficult to come by at the Britannia Stadium and has made the decision to hang up his boots.
The striker wrote on his personal website: “It is with an immense amount of pride that I am announcing my intention to retire from professional football at the end of this season.”
The striker will probably be best remembered for his exploits with England, for whom he burst onto the international scene as an 18-year-old and scored his most famous goal against Argentina at the 1998 World Cup.
He ended up with 40 goals from 89 caps, behind only Bobby Charlton, Gary Lineker and Jimmy Greaves on the all-time list.
In the statement on his website, Owen continued: “Having progressed through the ranks at Liverpool to make my first-team debut at 17, before embarking upon spells at Real Madrid, Newcastle United, Manchester United and Stoke City, not to mention representing my country on 89 occasions, I now feel it is the right time to bring the curtain down on my career.
“I have been very fortunate in that my career has taken me on a journey that, like many young players starting out, I could only have dreamt of.
“None of this would have been possible without the tremendous support I have received from managers, coaches, fellow players, back-room staff, the supporters and my own personal sponsors.
“I would like to thank each and every one for the huge role they have played in helping me reach the top of my profession.”
Owen went on to thank his family, ending with a message to his father Terry, a former professional footballer with Everton and Chester.
He said: “We did it my old mate! From those freezing local parks to terrorising the best defenders in the world on the biggest stages of all. I couldn’t have done it without you.”