EPL: Super agent Owen to the rescue

Man with the plan: Who needs Radamel Falcao (above) or Thiago Alcantara when you can develop young English players? At least that's the plan Michael Owen has to bring up the standard of the league and the crop of English players.

English football is in disarray. No one wants to play in the English Premier League any more. They've picked up their ball and gone to Spain, Italy, Germany and France.

France is the ultimate insult. Clubs like Monaco and Paris Saint-Germain might have a few million euros to throw around, but picking Ligue 1 over the Premier League is like picking an ugly step-sister over Cinderella.

Radamel Falcao had no shortage of English suitors and still opted for Monaco. There hasn't been a more mismatched pairing since Quasimodo got it on with Esmeralda.

Money talks and the Premier League has suddenly lost its voice.

Falcao, Thiago Alcantara, Neymar, David Villa and Mario Goetze all turned down the chance to visit Stoke or Hull in February.

Having said that, there are people living in Stoke and Hull who aren't keen on visiting their city centre in February.

They'd need a further incentive - like a blindfold.

Footballers can't perform in blind folds - although the Queens Park Rangers' back four had a good go last season - so they settle for financial incentives instead.

France, Spain, Germany and Italy are raising the stakes and the English are being left behind.

No fear

But there is no need to fear. A vision has appeared, standing alone in wellington boots and knee-deep in horse manure.

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it's Michael Owen with his slightly nasal voice.

In tough times, tough men step forward.

If this was a movie, one can almost hear the gravelly tones of a narrator in the trailer.

"It was a time for heroes. English football was on its knees. World-class players were fleeing to Europe. English romantics called Wayne Rooney world class with a straight face. Emperor Ferguson had gone. It was time for a new breed. It was time for ... Michael Owen? Really?"

Relying on Owen to bring balance to the force after Ferguson's reign is asking the ewoks to succeed Darth Vader.

But Owen is doing his bit to fight the phantom menace of European clubs poaching the best players. He's just set up his own agency, Michael Owen Management, to develop young English players.

It's hardly a Jedi mind trick.

But that boy is our only hope.

He's already making a difference. He helped Manchester City youngster Emyr Huws gain first-team experience at Northampton last season.

Well, academy coaches in the Catalans and Munich must be soiling their underwear as we speak.

Imagine that conversation during a meeting of Bundesliga academy directors...

"So, we saw off the English and their sad devotion to their ancient religion of 4-4-2."

"Don't underestimate the force of Michael Owen. He has just sent a boy from Manchester City to Northampton."

"What had the boy done wrong?"

"Nothing. Owen is an agent now."

"A secret agent? Why would he be sending innocent boys to Northampton? What did they ever do to him?"


"But think about it. If he's sending boys to Northampton today, it could be Watford tomorrow."

"You're right. Get Pep Guardiola on the phone. We need scouts at Northampton."

It's easy to be cynical. Anyone who calls their management company "Michael Owen Management" deserves to be taken seriously.

The retired striker must have spent weeks agonising over the company name.

And time will tell if he chooses to run his agency in a similar fashion to the final years of his playing career.

Perhaps he'll make a late appearance in the final 10 minutes of three meetings next season. He could communicate with his clients via Twitter.

But he did explode onto the Premier League scene as a scrawny kid blessed with immense talent and firmly believes that is where the new generation is going wrong.

"You see 19-, 20-year-olds at a big club and you think, 'What are you doing faffing around?'. Because you have wasted three years of your career," he said.

Interestingly, his view was echoed by Manchester United and Stoke supporters in the last three years of his career.

Owen is adamant that regular first-team football for promising teenagers is the only way forward.

"You should be in a first team by the time you are 18 or 19," he said in an interview this week.

"It is a dangerous age. There is such wastage there."

So he sends the young ones to Northampton instead. Lionel Messi has often pondered how his career might have been redefined by a stint at Northampton.

Of course, Owen's heart has always been in the right place.

His body often wasn't - it was down the horse stables most weekends - but his heart always was.

He wants to give something back to the game, something that the game always gave him.

Perhaps he should donate a substitute's bench.