Hargreaves in class of his own

Former Manchester City midfielder Owen Hargreaves stretches during a training session at the club's...

Former Manchester City midfielder Owen Hargreaves stretches during a training session at the club's Carrington training complex in Manchester, northern England. (REUTERS)

IAN BUSBY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:03 PM ET

CALGARY - Even if Owen Hargreaves' pro soccer career is now over, he will go down as the greatest player to ever come from Calgary.

And his former coach believes there will never be another like him.

Thomas Niendorf helped Hargreaves get a tryout with Bayern Munich back in 1996, and the rest is history thanks to the plucky midfielder's talent and resolve.

Manchester City of the English Premier League cut ties with the 31-year-old Tuesday after a year in which he only made four appearances with the big club.

Hargreaves had an impressive resume -- helping Bayern Munich win four German Bundesliga titles -- before transferring to Manchester United in August 2007, but injuries have dogged him since then.

The struggles in England don't make Niendorf any less proud of his greatest discovery.

"He's the most accomplished soccer player from North America," said Niendorf, who returned to Calgary a few years ago to be executive technical director at Chinooks Soccer Association.

"I cannot think of any U.S. player who has done what he accomplished being able to play for England at two World Cups. He won league championships at Bayern Munich and Manchester United.

"I don't think there will ever be a player who will accomplish that type of success."

Hargreaves was able to play for England because his parents were born there. In fact, he's the only member of his family to be born in Canada.

Growing up playing with the Foothills club, Hargreaves spent his formative years in Calgary before making a name for himself in Germany.

There is a 'shrine' for him at the Subway Soccer Centre that serves as a reminder of what can be accomplished starting out here.

"It's an inspiration for kids to hear about Owen and what he did in Calgary," Calgary Soccer Association executive director Daryl Leinweber said.

"It's a pity about him now. Hopefully he rises again and catches on with another club."

Hargreaves made just one league appearance with Man City this season, but his last action came in January during an FA Cup match against Man United.

Since then, he was hampered by a calf injury and was just a spectator as Man City made a run for the EPL title.

The question is whether Hargreaves continues his career and continues looking for a job in the English Premier League, or finally comes home to play in North America.

"Maybe he will surprise us with something we haven't thought about yet," Niendorf said.

"I'm glad he overcame his injury and gave himself another chance to join a club. Going to Manchester City took some guts. He was never one for backing away from challenges.

"Of course, it was difficult not to crack the top lineup. He was with Bayern and they won league championships a few times. He was with Man United when they won the league championship a few times.

"I think he gave Manchester City a bit of luck too. He didn't play much, but they won the league championship too."

ian.busby@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter @SUNIanBusby


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