Love Island’s most notable contestant on the 2022 series belongs to one of the most famous families in British sport.
So some viewers were left baffled when her male suitors on the show failed to make the connection between Gemma Owen and her father Michael – once the greatest footballer on Earth.
The Owens have become a household name in British sport and while Gemma hasn’t taken after her dad by lacing up her boots, she has become a dressage rider. She’s made no secret of her heritage and was dropping all sorts of hints in her Love Island promotional video when the show launched on Monday night.
But after revealing what her last name was, there were no lightbulbs popping up on anyone’s heads about who her famous father was. Even a chat with one of the new boys – who had revealed he wanted to go into sport performance and work with football teams – could not help him work out her relation to Owen Snr, now 42.
Gemma had asked her new match Liam if he had played at a ‘decent level’, to which he replied: ‘I feel like you’ve been with an ex-footballer or something.’
Indeed many of the public watching the show also seemed unaware of Gemma’s father’s credentials and importance to English football despite his countless achievements and iconic memories in the beautiful game.
Here, Sportsmail breaks down the incredible career of Michael Owen and why Love Island fans should be taking note of him after his daughter set off for a summer of love in Majorca.
Many Love Island fans were not aware of Gemma Owen’s famous father Michael (L) after she made her entrance on the 2022 show
Owen is one of the most iconic players in England’s history who scored a famous goal against Argentina in 1998 – and, pictured here, a hat-trick against Germany in 2001
Who is Michael Owen?
Well, he’s only one of England most iconic player. And the last player from this country to win the Ballon d’Or – the award given to the world’s best footballer – which he pulled off in 2001.
Michael Owen started his career at Liverpool and quickly took English football by storm
Back then he was playing for Liverpool, the club where he started his career, and quickly became one of the brightest talents in English football after scoring 23 goals in just his second senior season in the 1997-1998 campaign.
That year he collected his first 12 caps for England as the country began to rave about the youngster, who was then just a teenager.
In fact, he became the youngest player to feature at a World Cup at France 1998 when he was sent on as a substitute by Glenn Hoddle in their opening game against Tunisia and was the youngest to score in the tournament after finding the net against Romania in the following match.
But it was the knockout stages of the competition that really put Owen on the map.
He scored an iconic goal against Argentina in the 1998 World Cup in France by going past two players before smashing in a fantastic solo effort
Owen was picked to start against Argentina alongside Alan Shearer – who had scored the equaliser from the penalty spot – and it was the young talent who announced himself with a sensational solo goal to put England in front.
After being picked out by David Beckham, Owen collected the pass and surged through on goal after out-muscling one Argentina player, before sidestepping another, and thumping the ball into the corner.
England fans across the country were sent wild as a real statement was made that this was a special player to take seriously. Even though England went on to draw 2-2 and lose on penalties, it was a moment watched by around 23million Brits on TV, which is one of the most watched UK sporting events in history.
Owen’s strike was a special moment in British sport during a game watched by 23m people
How did he win the Ballon d’Or?
After making a name for himself at the World Cup, Owen continued to excel for Liverpool and his big year came in 2001.
It saw him score 31 goals in that calendar year to help Liverpool win the FA Cup, League Cup, UEFA Cup, UEFA Super Cup, and the FA Community Shield.
While he was unable to steer Liverpool to the Premier League or Champions League titles, his talents did not go unnoticed on the world stage as he became just the fourth British player to ever win the Ballon d’Or after Sir Stanley Matthews, Sir Bobby Charlton and Kevin Keegan. No Brit has won it since.
He beat off fierce competition for the award too, pipping Real Madrid superstar Raul and England team-mate David Beckham to the prestigious honour.
The goals kept coming after picking up the prize, scoring another 75 times across the next three seasons before some of football’s elite clubs came calling.
Owen scored 31 times in 2001 for Liverpool and was crowned as the best player on the planet
What clubs did he play for?
After leaving Liverpool, Owen made high-profile move to Real Madrid – one of the biggest clubs in world football – then for a fee of £8million in 2004.
Owen was given the famous Number 11 shirt and joined Madrid’s sparkling team of ‘Galacticos’, including Brazilian striker Ronaldo, Luig Figo, Roberto Carlos, Zinedine Zidane and his England pal Beckham.
But Owen struggled to reproduce the performances that earned him rave reviews at Liverpool as he adapted to his new surroundings and was criticised by the Spanish press – though he still managed to end the season with 16 goals.
In 2004 he sealed a high-profile move to Real Madrid – one of the biggest clubs in the world
He later joined Newcastle (R), where he struggled with injuries, before later having success with Liverpool’s rivals Manchester United
MICHAEL OWEN’S CAREER IN NUMBERS
Liverpool – 297 games, 158 goals, six trophies
Real Madrid – 45 games, 16 goals
Newcastle United – 79 games, 30 goals
Manchester United – 52 games, 17 goals, three trophies
Stoke City – nine games, one goal
England – 89 caps, 40 goals
It became clear that the move had not worked out for Owen and he was offered an immediate return to England after just one year in Spain by Newcastle United – who paid a club-record fee of £16.5m to sign him.
His arrival was greeted by fans like a God as tens of thousands of supporters gathered to witness his unveiling as a Newcastle player in 2005.
Owen’s time at Newcastle was blighted by injuries, however, and he managed just 79 appearances in four years, scoring 30 times. He later admitted he regretted moving to Tyneside and that he would have preferred a return to Liverpool.
In 2009, with Owen leaving the club on a free transfer, he signed for Manchester United – who were then the most successful club in England and the bitter rivals of his old club Liverpool.
The move didn’t go down well with fans of Liverpool as a result but Owen was successful with United – scoring a famous winner in the Manchester Derby against their rivals Man City in the dying minutes to win the game 4-3 and later winning the Premier League title and League Cup for Sir Alex Ferguson’s team.
He played 52 times for United, scoring 17 times, before ending his career at Stoke City in 2012. His playing days ended on a low note as he featured just nine times for the Staffordshire-based side, scoring a single goal.
Who is he married to and how many children does he have?
Owen married his childhood sweetheart Louise Bonsall in 2005 after they met in primary school back in 1984, and they’ve had four children together.
Living in Chester, Louise gave birth to Gemma in 2003, with a son Michael following in 2006. A third child, and their second daughter – named Emily – came along in 2007 and their final child and third daughter Jessica arrived in 2010.
Owen and Louise have both been avid fans of horse racing and are regulars at events such as the Royal Ascot. Owen has owned and bred horses, leading Brown Panther to a 2011 win at Ascot and the 2015 Dubai Gold Cup.
It has been the pair’s love of horses and horse racing that encouraged daughter Gemma to take up her career as a dressage rider and Owen will be pleased to see her follow him into sport – but he can’t be too happy that she’s now decided to sign up to Love Island to be chased by male contestants.
Owen married his childhood sweetheart Louise Bonsall in 2005, with the pair meeting at primary school back in 1984
The couple’s firstborn was their daughter Gemma Rose, who arrived in 2003, two years before they got married. Just under two decades later she is now a Love Island contestant
What about his off-field behaviour?
Owen has been in the limelight for all the wrong reasons in the last year – with his marriage brought into focus after texts were revealed from a conversation with former Big Brother star Rebecca Jane.
The married man allegedly sent hundreds of texts to the former reality star, with the chat eventually becoming sexual as he asked her to send him 20 topless photos, telling her he would ‘judge them’ and requesting that she ‘leave nothing to the imagination’.
It came as a shock considering Owen’s previously noble reputation as a loving father and husband, with the former footballer allegedly asking to meet up with her at a horse race.
Owen allegedly begged reality star Rebecca Jane for nude photographs and told her that he would ‘judge’ them in hundreds of seedy text messages
Miss Jane is a trained solicitor and previously fronted a lovecheat detective agency.
Owen allegedly wrote to her: ‘Come on then, fire them through. It’s a long boring trip to London so I need something to do… leave nothing to the imagination.
‘And I’ll advise on the suitability of them for social media – hopefully none of them are suitable.’
When Miss Jane granted his request, he is believed to have responded: ‘Tremendous by the way.’
‘Surely you’ve got pics saved up,’ he is said to have added when asking for more. ‘I thought I was going to be judging dozens?
‘How about send me about 20? That’d be good.’
Miss Jane, who appeared on Big Brother in 2017, used to run a lovecheat detective agency and is a regular guest on ITV’s This Morning
In Owen’s autobiography Reboot – My Life, My Time, he revealed he and Louise had gone through difficulties and were on the brink of divorce in 2014, with the pair attending marriage counselling.
He said the couple had worked on their differences and said he had become ‘a completely different person’.
‘Now that my life-changing liaison with the idea of splitting up with Louise and the family in 2014 has passed, I’m pretty sure everyone who knows me will say that I’m now a completely different person – in the best possible way.’
What does Owen do now?
Owen has become a regular face for football fans on BT Sport’s coverage of the biggest games in the Premier League and Champions League, and he has also lent his voice to commentary work.
His experience of playing in some of football’s most high-profile matches has been valuable to broadcasters, though fans have taken aim at his sometimes limited analysis and pointing out the obvious in matches.
Football supporters will recall his infamous quote: ‘You need people who score goals. That’s how you win games’, while on commentary duty, as well as the classic ‘Footballers these days often have to use their feet’.
Owen has become a familiar face as a pundit and commentary, but his work has not always earned high plaudits from fans
Owen has also made a name for himself with a number of commercial deals, including as the face of washing powder firm Persil, while he was the front cover star of Pro Evolution Soccer during his playing days.
Since retirement, fans have seen him pop up on a number of television programmes, including Celebrity Crystal Maze, Sport Relief – and he even appeared as a secret contestant on The Masked Singer. He was secretly performing as a Doughnut character and made it to the sixth episode.
‘Finally I can apologise for burning your ears these last few weeks,’ he wrote on Twitter after his elimination.
‘My kids badgered me into doing @MaskedSingerUK but I have to say it was a great experience and a whole lot of fun.
‘Still can’t believe I got past round one!’
The ex-striker was unveiled as mystery contestant ‘Doughnut’ on the Masked Singer in January
What has Owen said about Gemma appearing on Love Island?
He’s not too happy, let’s just say that.
Owen has jetted off to Munich, where he’ll be a pundit for England’s clash against Germany on Tuesday night – just in time to miss the launch of the hit ITV show, where his daughter was the centre of attention.
He insists he is supportive of her decision to go on the show, but admits he is living every father’s ‘worst nightmare’.
Owen has admitted Gemma going on Love Island is a father’s ‘worst nightmare’ but insists he supports her decision to go on the show
‘I have no doubts that she will make us all proud,’ he said. ‘It’s probably a father’s worst nightmare, but whatever she wants to do you’ve got to be supportive. I’ve heard a lot about it.
‘I think old, grumpy men like me will always have an opinion on it because I don’t watch it and you just hear snippets, but she assures me it’s not as bad as I think.
‘It’s quite a big thing and whatever she wants to do, you have to be supportive and I think I’ve given her a decent enough grounding to be respectful’.