When we pose the question of who is Canada’s most successful football player, many would quickly respond with Alphonso Davis. He is an incredibly talented left back who has dominated the Bundesliga with Bayern Munich. In his career, he has won the German League title multiple times, as well playing an integral part of the 2019/20 Champions League winning side. While Alphonso Davies may never meet the dizzying heights of fame that Wayne Gretzky has achieved in Canada, he has done more than enough to cement his place among the Great White North’s most successful sports stars. Furthermore, Canada has had football players such as Owen Hargreaves, Jonathan David, Julian De Guzman, Scott Arfield and Craig Forest who have played in the biggest leagues in Europe. In a real sense, they have paved the way and proven to future generations of Canadian footballers that anything is possible within the game.
Canada, Sport & Betting: A Match Made in Heaven
The incredible success of Canada’s footballing exports have increased the popularity of the beautiful game back home in a significant way. The ability to watch live games from Europe’s biggest leagues has also played a major role in the increased interest. A knock on effect of all of this is the proliferation of top online sports betting sites in Canada that allow punters to place bets on the outcome of football games around the world.
Canada and sport go hand in hand, so much so that it is ingrained within the country’s culture rather than being seen as a simple pastime. So while Alphonso Davis may be the first name on people’s lips when they think of Canadian footballers today, there is another Canadian footballer who also played for Bayern Munich that often gets overlooked. He is perhaps the player who first proved that it was possible for Canadian footballers to reach the highest of highs within the European game.
His performances in Europe are responsible for piquing the interest of Canadian fans back home, alerting scouts throughout the big five European leagues to sit up and take note of Canada’s potential talent, and shown that there is a pathway for future generations to follow. As mentioned above, this also culminated in the demand for football betting sites in Canada that allowed you to follow the careers of Canadian footballers plying their trade in Europe. So, let’s take a look at the footballer who made this all possible.
Our Very Owen
Whereas Davis was originally born in Ghana before going on to represent Canada’s national team, this individual was born in Calgary, but actually went on to play for England. So, without further ado, let’s get acquainted with Mr. Owen Hargreaves.
Calgary: The Early Days
Born in Calgary, Alberta, Hargreaves was born to parents who had emigrated from the United Kingdom in the 1980s. There was sport in his blood, with his father having played for the Bolton Wanderers youth team in England and for Calgary Kickers in the Canadian Soccer League.
As a result of this, he was introduced to the world of football at an early age and played for Calgary Foothills as a youngster. It did not take him long to attract the attention of some of the biggest clubs in world football and would go on to leave Canada at the age of 16 in order to challenge himself at the highest possible level.
Munich: The Big Step Up
Following his arrival to Bayern Munich, he had to bide his time and prove his worth, spending over two years with the amateur Under 19’s team. Having made an impression during this spell, he was awarded with his first team Bundesliga debut on August 12th, 2000, coming on as an 83rd minute substitute for Carsten Jancker in a match against Hertha Berlin.
Hargreaves would so on to establish himself as a first team regular in the 2001/02 season, and would ultimately win four Bundesliga titles with the German outfit. It was during this time that England would come knocking, and when he made his English national team debut in 2001, he would earn the honour of being the only player to play for England who had never actually lived in the country.
His time in Germany would come to an end in 2007 when, after 18 months of negotiations, the Calgary born player would move to Manchester Unite for an estimated fee of £17 million.
Manchester: A Rocky Road
Owen Hargreaves’s time in Manchester would never reach the heights he did during his time with Bayern Munich. At Manchester United, he was continuously hampered with injury and found it incredibly difficult to build any momentum. While he did make 23 league appearances in his first season, he would only go on to make a further 4 over the course of the following three seasons combined. While the records show that he won both the 2007/08 Premier League and Champions League, he time with the Red Devils was nothing short of a disaster. In his 2013 autobiography, his manager at United, Sir. Alex Ferguson, labelled him as “one of his most disappointing signings” of his career, a statement that sums up his time in England fairly well.
Despite offering to play the 2011/12 season for free, the club declined and Hargreaves was released at the end of his contract. In a shocking twist, after posting videos online in an attempt to demonstrate his fitness to the world, he signed for United’s arch rivals, Manchester City. While City would go on to win the league in his only season with the club, their first time winning the title in 44 years, Hargreaves would only make one league appearance, and was therefore ineligible to receive a winners medal.
A Final Note
Despite his career ending in a string of injuries, and choosing to represent England instead of Canada at international level, a decision that angered many Canadian fans, Hargreaves demonstrated his immense talent during his six seasons with Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich.
Yes, he is often overlooked when considering Canada’s greatest sport stars due to the fact that he left Calgary to go to Germany at a young age, but he deserves to be included in the conversation much more than he features, especially when speaking about soccer. So here’s to you, our very own, Owen Hargreaves, the man who paved the way for Canadian footballers in the modern European game!