Is Owen still worth a gamble?
As Cristiano Ronaldo parties with Paris Hilton in Los Angeles in preparation for his coronation as Real Madrid's latest galactico, spare a thought for one of his predecessors in that elite group.
It was the summer of 2004 and Michael Owen was the Premier League superstar lauded by Real president Florentino Perez, the man who signed off the world record £80m bid for Ronaldo, after his capture from Liverpool.
Owen was handed his Real shirt by the legendary Alfredo di Stefano and Peres greeted him with a message he is likely to repeat when Ronaldo arrives in Madrid: "Signing him is following in our tradition. He fits perfectly into the Real Madrid culture."
How times change. While Ronaldo's history-making price tag did not even make Real blink, Owen is forced to send out a buyer's guide to potential purchasers reminding them of the talent that was once a magnet for the world's biggest clubs.
Owen's record and pedigree should have suitors queueing down the street to secure his services - and yet it seems a brochure is required to tell selected clubs that one of the best marksmen of his generation is available on a free transfer this summer.
The move by Owen's management company, Wasserman Media Group, has provoked a reaction ranging from astonishment to mockery - with the cynics suggesting their client is begging for a club as his reported £120,000-a-year contract at Newcastle United draws to a close.
The document details Owen's career achievements, outlines "Brand Values" and informing those lurking in the market that he retains global appeal - and, perhaps most importantly, it also contains a four-page medical review reassuring the doubters that he is fit and healthy.
The notion of Owen needing to advertise his wares could be construed as a sign of how far his star has fallen during four injury-plagued and unfulfilling years on Tyneside that ended in relegation from the Premier League.
But is it such a bad idea after all? Not really. Maybe his management are simply doing their job - talking up a prize asset to the market and making the Premier League aware that here is a gamble that might just be worth taking.
Owen is not the player he was - he will admit that himself. And his recent injury record will nag at the back of the minds of managers pondering the idea of taking a plunge.
He has lost the searing pace that marked his stunning arrival on the global stage at the 1998 World Cup, but set him against the price of some of the buys being touted this summer, and the idea of signing Owen for a song and a contract worth around £50,000-a-week surely has merit.
Alan Hansen, who watched his emergence at Liverpool as a teenager and has followed his career ever since, insists there will be a market for a player of Owen's calibre.
He told me: "There will be clubs out there. I don't think you are taking a chance if you are getting him for free and maybe getting a pay-as-you-play deal. He may have lost a yard of pace, but if he is fit and he plays he scores goals.
"The top four probably won't go for him, but I think the clubs between five and ten will be interested. I honestly don't think he will have a problem getting a club - goalscorers are precious commodities and he is a goalscorer.
"He had his critics at Newcastle, but maybe the service wasn't the best and if he moves he is likely to be playing with better players. If you get him fit he will score goals.
"It might be a surprise that his management need to advertise him but I don't see a problem with that. They are simply doing their job for their client and maybe they are not happy with the offers they have had, but I would be amazed if he didn't get a club.
"You are not getting the Michael Owen of 1998 but you are getting a goalscorer - and as I said they are precious to clubs in the Premier League."
Owen looked short on confidence in his closing appearances for Newcastle, but there remains the hope that his fire would be rekindled in happier surroundings and supplied with greater quality.
And Owen would not be short on motivation. He may have to adjust his sights as someone who believes his ability should always be shown on the highest stage, because the top four are probably out of his range at this stage of his career.
But with a World Cup only 12 months away, he will want one final tilt at showing England coach Fabio Capello he is worth considering for South Africa, so any buyer will have a player fuelled by the idea of a parting shot at a major tournament.
So who are the potential takers for Owen, a man with roots and interests planted firmly in the north of England but still harbouring desires to finish his career with a flourish?
Everton would appear to be the perfect fit for Owen from a personal and professional viewpoint - a boyhood blue before nailing his colours to the mast of rivals Liverpool to such great effect.
Boss David Moyes has tried and failed to sign Owen before, and is currently understood to be "50/50" about pursuing a deal this summer. Everton's situation is complicated by the presence in their squad of Louis Saha, a striker with his own questionable injury record.
Everton need attacking reinforcements with Yakubu still recovering from injury, but is there a place for both Owen and Saha at Goodison Park? This will tax the mind of Moyes before he makes his decision.
Owen is also believed to be concerned about the reaction on Merseyside should he sign for Everton after making himself such a prominent figure in Liverpool's recent history. Past form tells us fans forget allegiances if strikers are finding the net - and Owen has always backed himself to do that.
Aston Villa have been linked with Owen, although boss Martin O'Neill was swift to shoot down claims he has already been offered a two-year deal. If Owen moved to Villa, he could reignite a partnership with Emile Heskey that proved fruitful at club level with Liverpool and in internationals with England, although this particular link has a foot firmly in the past.
Heskey, however, has not established himself at Villa and it is tough to see where Owen would fit into the current set-up with John Carew the spearhead, allied to the pace of Gabriel Agbonlahor and Ashley Young.
Manchester City are retaining an interest, but Mark Hughes looks to be setting his sights at the more expensive end of the market - although Owen could yet emerge as a cheaper option and is likely to welcome the interest.
Owen has support from key players inside the Liverpool camp, who see the benefits of signing him on a free transfer, but he left shortly after Rafael Benitez's arrival in 2004 and a failed attempt to bring him back to Anfield before he joined Newcastle a year later probably ended any chance of an emotional return.
West Ham United and Spurs have been mentioned in dispatches, but it is hard to picture Owen moving to London if he gets offers from the midlands or the north. Panathinaikos and Roma have been named as other possible buyers, but it is clear Owen wants to continue his career in the Premier League and not as a member of European football's undercard.
It all leaves Owen in an unlikely form of limbo as he waits for his next club to make a firm move - but despite the doubts over his fitness and recent record, his proven class is still likely to be enough of a sales pitch to tempt managers to keep him in the Premier League.