Michael Owen: Gary Lineker praises former England striker

Owen's memorable England goals

Former England striker Gary Lineker says Michael Owen will be remembered as one of their "best-ever strikers" who would have broken Sir Bobby Charlton's goalscoring record but for injury.

Owen, who is to retire in May, scored 40 goals in 89 internationals, nine fewer than Charlton.

England stars on Owen's retirement

"He's one of the greatest strikers who has ever put on an England shirt," Lineker, 52, told BBC Sport.

"We could do with someone like that now, a natural goalscorer."

Lineker, who scored 48 times in 80 appearances for his country between 1984 and 1992, added: "Michael was unquestionably one of the best strikers in world football at his peak.

"But for injures, Michael would have broken all England scoring records. He was blighted with one injury after another, which was a real shame.

"The best part of his career was with Liverpool before he started to get a few injuries. It was just bad luck getting those injuries.

"It's not like he suddenly lost form. It was circumstances beyond anyone's control."

Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard, speaking ahead of England's forthcoming World Cup qualifiers with San Marino and Montenegro, said Owen was a pleasure to play with at international level.

"He's a player you're proud to play alongside," said Lampard.

"Without the injury problems towards the end of his career he would have broken all of the goalscoring records and reached 100 caps.

"If there's a frustration it will be that. But he shouldn't have any because he's had a top career for club and country."

Despite a career which included stints at Liverpool, Real Madrid,Newcastle and Manchester United, Owen missed out on a European Cup success and was limited to one Premier League title.

But former Liverpool player John Barnes told BBC Sport: "Forget about what he could have achieved if he hadn't suffered so many injuries, it's what he has achieved.

"He's had one of the best careers anyone could hope for."

Glenn Hoddle believes the 33-year-old will go down as one of England's top-four greatest finishers.

Ex-England manager Hoddle gave Owen his debut in 1998, included him in his World Cup squad for the 1998 finals in France, and was rewarded with a sensational goal from the teenager against Argentina.

"He is in the top four of our greatest finishers, along with Jimmy Greaves, Gary Lineker and Alan Shearer," said Hoddle.

"Some might say he is at the top of that list. He was a baby-faced assassin. His finishing was amazing for a young man."

Sven-Goran Eriksson, another former England manager, described Owen's announcement as a "sad story for football".

"You know that if he is on the pitch, there is always the chance to win until the last second of the game," Eriksson told Abu Dhabi Media.

"There are so many good memories of Michael and my relationship with him as coach, but it must be scoring three goals against Germany away.

"I never thought about that, but I wonder now how many players have scored three goals in Germany away? That can't be many."

Eriksson on favourite Owen memory

Manchester City midfielder James Milner, who is currently on England duty, said Owen's impending retirement marks the end of an era.

"He did it at Madrid and hasn't had the credit for what he did over there," he said.

"The contribution he's made to English football is great and he'll be missed."

Leading figures at the Football Association also paid tribute to Owen, who made his England debut in a friendly against Chile on 11 February 1998.

FA chairman David Bernstein said it was "a great shame" the player was retiring.

And Adrian Bevington, Club England managing director, said negotiations were under way with Owen "about how he can share his international experience with our younger players in the future in an ambassadorial role".