Owen broke the club’s transfer record when he signed from Real Madrid for almost £ 17 million, and his arrival coincided with Alan Shearer’s last season for the Magpies.
Owen even mentioned the possibility of playing alongside the legend of the club as a factor in the movement (with a considerable salary and a return to England, no doubt).
Shirts bearing the attacker’s name flew onto Newcastle shelves, and thousands of supporters crowded into St James’s Park to greet him during his official unveiling.
However, by the time Owen left Newcastle four years later, the club had just been relegated from the Premier League.
Owen later wrote that the move to the Magpies was a “step down” and the only transfer in his career that he really missed.
As a result, you’d be hard pressed to find a Newcastle supporter with a kind word to say about Owen, who is considered the mercenary era at the club in which players made a lot of money and didn’t failed to deliver.
But fans have short memories. The news that potential Newcastle homeowners will target another Real player at Gareth Bale if they take over at St James’s Park is likely to trigger a level of excitement similar to that which put pressure on the arrival of Owen.
Like Owen, Bale is a former Premier League player who wants to go home to escape the struggle of Real Madrid. It would undoubtedly cost a lot of money, making him the highest paid player in the club.
But with that money comes responsibility, and the Wales star could learn from Owen’s mistakes on Tyneside.
The first, and most obvious, is to live where you work. Owen’s helicopter trips from the northwest have painted a picture of a man disconnected from the people who helped pay his salary.
When Newcastle signed Alan Shearer in 1996, Kevin Keegan held public speaking until the club returned to the Northeast (they were on tour in Asia at the time). He cited the fact that the deal was funded by fan money as the reason. Although the influence of fan money is now largely offset by television revenues, it still plays a role.
The same would be true of Basel, and as fans will tell you quickly, the Northeast is a beautiful place to live (and it also has beautiful golf courses).
The second aspect is to present yourself as a leader. Bale is the driving force behind Wales’ international success, and channeling that same energy to Newcastle would be very helpful.
Newcastle fans are no different from other supporters in that they want players to work hard. Too often, Owen felt like a passenger. His influence ebbed and flowed, and since he operated as a club captain for some time, his absences were even more marked.
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Some things were beyond Owen’s control. His unfortunate injury record was a disappointment to everyone, but what made it worse was the feeling that he would work hard to be fit for England, but less for Newcastle.
Bale has been accused of doing the same with Wales and Real Madrid. The infamous photo of him holding a flag that said “Wales, Golf, Madrid” naturally annoyed Los Blancos supporters, and a similar feeling would occur on Tyneside if Newcastle took the place of Madrid.
That said, if Bale were to commit to Newcastle and give everything, he would get more than money from his efforts.
Another talented left winger, David Ginola, still talks about Tyneside as his “home”. Ginola’s photo is still hanging on the wall in St James’s Park. If Bale were to succeed, or even go further and deliver a trophy, he would have no trouble finding his photo in Newcastle.