When Owen Hargreaves joined Manchester United for £17 million in the summer of 2007, after a year-long negotiation with Bayern Munich, fans were hopeful that the vaccum left by Roy Keane's departure would be filled by England's best performer in the 2006 World Cup.
It came at a time when the 'Makelele role', after then Chelsea player Claude Makelele, had gained prominence. Makele had broken apart many attacks to lead Chelsea to two consecutive Premiership titles, and the role of the defensive midfielder which United lacked after Keane departed, was one of the reasons highlighted as to why Chelsea and not United had won the Premiership.
Add to that Hargreaves' performance in an otherwise rubbish World Cup for England, and United had every right to be hopeful. In his first season at United, he won the Premiership and the Champions League, scoring a crucial winner against Arsenal in the run-in to the Permiership finale. However, that would prove to be his only triumph. The following season saw him restricted to scrap bit-part appearances after a succession of injuries which would go on to restrict him to the sidelines. And he remains sidelined even today.
He had to fight tendinitis problems in both knees and needed surgery, after consulting renowned knee specialist Richard Steadman. However, he could only manage a few seconds on field in the whole of last season, while a start against Wolves on November this season saw him last just five minutes as he pulled his hamstring. The former Bayern man has now sustained a shoulder injury and his manager, Sir Alex Ferguson does not think he will recover from it in time to play this season. With the contract expiring in the summer, United are unlikely to renew it.
When asked if Hargreaves would play this season, Sir Alex said, I don't see it at all. It is a shoulder injury. It has just brought his season to an end. He has just carried bad luck all the time he has been here. I am pretty sure he won't be playing this season. His contract is up at the end of the season but I don't know what is going to happen. David Gill (chief executive of the club) had a discussion with the boy last week. But no more than that. We have to make a decision.
Out of action for almost three years, the thought of retirement is sure to have crossed Hargreaves' mind. This remains a sad case of how a footballer's career can go horribly wrong.