Michael Owen: Real Madrid to Newcastle move the only one I regret
Former Newcastle United striker Michael Owen says his move from Real Madrid to the Magpies was a "downward step" and the "one I really regret".
The ex-England captain signed in 2005 for £17m - a year after joining Real from Liverpool - but injuries limited him to 79 appearances in four years.
"I should have followed my gut instincts," Owen says in his new book, Reboot - My Life, My Time.
"I didn't want to go there - my heart was set on a return to Liverpool."
In his book, which is being serialised in the Daily Mirror, Owen says the Reds could not match Newcastle's offer 14 years ago, so he reluctantly agreed his switch to St James' Park.
"From a career perspective, there was no doubt in my mind that a move to the North East was a downward step," added the 39-year-old, who also played for Manchester United and Stoke City before retiring in 2013.
"As unpalatable as that opinion might be to Newcastle fans, that's more or less what I felt."
The 2001 Ballon d'Or winner had a strained relationship with then Magpies chairman Freddy Shepherd, which worsened when he was filmed saying he would "carry Michael Owen back to Anfield".
"Freddy was only doing what all the fans constantly do at almost every football club," said Owen. "They believe their club is 10% bigger and their team is 10% better than it actually is.
"This kind of blind delusion is especially true of Newcastle United - which, as I reach for the nearest tin hat, is only a big club in the sense that it has a lot of fans and a big stadium."
Owen said the moment his relationship with the Magpies' supporters was "irreparably impaired" came when he was jeered as he was carried off on a stretcher after being knocked unconscious in their 1-1 draw at Watford in May 2007.
"When I got home, I switched on Match of the Day to watch the game and I could hear Newcastle fans, my fans, singing: 'What a waste of money,'" he added.
"I can't deny their actions that day changed things for me."