Footballers who returned to their boyhood clubs

By Henry Church Source:Global Times Published: 2020/7/2 18:38:40 Last Updated: 2020/7/2 14:38:40

Arjen Robben of FC Groningen reacts on June 27 in Groningen, the Netherlands. Photo: VCG

Arjen Robben has come out of retirement to return to Groningen and the former Dutch international winger has made quite the stir by re-signing with his boyhood club for next season. 

The Eredivisie called the season off amid the coronavirus pandemic, refusing to declare a winner for the 2019-20 season, so all eyes are on the next campaign. 

Already Robben's return has made headlines, and presuming that fans will be allowed in by the time the new season begins then Groningen will surely be quids in with season ticket sales and an increased media interest. 

The much decorated former Chelsea and Real Madrid player, who also shone on the international stage, is not the only player to have ended their career by coming home, though. 

Carlos Tevez - Boca Juniors

The Argentine striker came to the fore as a force of nature for Boca Juniors in his homeland before heading to Brazil with Corinthians and then West Ham United in the English Premier League. From there he went to Manchester United, where he won the UEFA Champions League alongside Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo. Controversy greeted his move across town to Manchester City, where he fell foul of manager Roberto Mancini, then Italian champions Juventus. Tevez went for an even more controversial spell with Chinese Super League side Shanghai Shenhua before one last dance in Buenos Aires, where he most recently helped Boca to the title. 

Henrik Larsson - Hogaborgs BK

One of Sweden and Celtic's greatest ever players also turned out for Barcelona and then briefly Manchester United before he looked back at the club where he started his career in Sweden's fourth division before moving to Feyenoord. The star striker came out of retirement in 2009 to return to Hogaborgs, where he played with his son. The pair partnered each other up front for several games. 

Andriy Shevchenko - Dynamo Kiev

Ukraine's best known footballer since Oleg Blokhin had thrived under the latter man in Kiev before Western Europe came calling. He would go on to fame at AC Milan, where he spent seven years and won the 2004 Ballon d'Or, before a move to England with Chelsea. Another stint at Milan sandwiched his time in the Premier League before he moved back to Dynamo in 2009. He would play three more years before helping to coach the national side. 

Dirk Kuyt - Quick Boys

A man known in his native Netherlands for his time at Feyenoord before becoming a cult figure on the Kop after joining Liverpool, Kuyt would return to Rotterdam via Turkish side Fenerbahce. He won the league in Turkey before moving back to Feyenoord and helping them to the Eredivisie in 2016-17. But he was not done with returns: In 2018, the 39-year-old returned to Quick Boys, playing three more matches before calling time on his career.

Diego Milito - Racing Club

Another Argentine who made the long journey to Europe to conquer it and then return back across the Atlantic, Milito was a renowned striker. He won the UEFA Champions League with Inter Milan under Jose Mourinho as part of the 2010 treble, following two stints at Genoa either side of time with Real Zaragoza in Spain. Milito scored both goals in Inter's win over Bayern Munich in the Champions League final in 2010, cementing his place as a club legend. He left in 2014 for boyhood side Racing Club for a two-season sojourn.

Robin van Persie - Feyenoord 

The Dutchman's time in England was long and illustrious but it was his first season in Manchester - Alex Ferguson's last with the club - that finally saw him win the Premier League title. He had spent eight seasons at Arsenal with Arsene Wenger, the French manager plucking him from first club Feyenoord as a winger, before three at Old Trafford. Van Persie survived David Moyes but not former national coach Louis van Gaal and when shown the door headed to Turkey with Fenerbahce before going  back to Rotterdam for one last season. 

Roque Santa Cruz - Olimpa Asuncion

There are not many Paraguayan footballers who leave the country but Santa Cruz is among the very best of them. He went straight to German giants Bayern Munich in 1999. He did not settle as expected in Bavaria and would see him move to both Blackburn Rovers and Manchester City under Mark Hughes, another striker who had failed at Bayern in his playing days. A move to Malaga saw the best of the Paraguayan before home called. Then Santa Cruz returned to Olimpa, the club where he had made his league debut as a 15-year-old, in 2016. 

Juan Sebastian Veron - Estudiantes

The original Juan Veron, known as "The Witch," spent three spells at Estudiantes de la Plata but for a few seasons in other South American leagues, his son Juan Sebastian (as opposed to Juan Ramon) would carry the Veron name much further. The younger Veron moved from Estudiantes to Boca Juniors then Italy with Sampdoria, before Parma and Lazio. Then England with Manchester United and Chelsea, spells which did not see the best of the "Little Witch" before a return to Italy with Inter. He was sent on loan to his boyhood club, who signed him permanently as he helped them to the 2009 Copa Libertadores, before he moved again to Argentine amateur side Brandsen. Estudiantes would call once more, though, and after hanging up his boots he became sporting director. 

Rafael Marquez - Atlas

Best known for his pony-tailed playing days as one half of Barcelona's unflappable central defensive partnership, Marquez was a force to be reckoned with in his day. He had started his career at Mexican side Atlas before a move to Monaco in 1999 and then Barcelona four years later. Not one to resist a challenge, Marquez headed to the US with MLS side New York Red Bulls before a spell in Italy with Atalanta. Atlas would call again and he returned in 2015. The defender retired before the 2018 World Cup but would travel as an unattached player to represent El Tri in Russia.
Newspaper headline: Coming Home


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