Buffon, Robben, Riquelme and the stars who went back to retire at their first club

By Sports Desk June 17, 2021

In a move that football purists, romanticists and aficionados of 1990s Serie A will be excited by, Gianluigi Buffon is returning to Parma after 20 years away.

Buffon came through the club's academy in the early '90s and made 220 appearances for them in all competitions, winning the Coppa Italia, Supercoppa Italiana and UEFA Cup during a six-year spell in the first-team.

Juventus made Buffon the world's most-expensive goalkeeper at the time when they paid €52million for him in 2001 and he played 685 times for them across two spells, 20 short of Alessandro Del Piero's club record.

Nevertheless, Buffon's longevity has ensured he is the record holder for the most Serie A appearances (657) and titles (10) in the league's history.

After leaving Juve at the end of the 2020-21 season, it was unclear what would be next for Buffon, but links with Parma began to stir despite their relegation to Serie B.

And on Thursday the club confirmed Buffon is back. While the days of challenging for major honours are long gone for Parma, the goalkeeping great represents a coup and the kind of transfer that tugs at heartstrings.

In honour of Buffon's momentous return, Stats Perform takes a look at other greats who've gone back to their spiritual home to close out their career.

Arjen Robben - Groningen

Arjen Robben's retirement lasted just a single season, as the Netherlands and Bayern Munich great announced last year that he was returning to his boyhood club Groningen for the 2020-21 campaign. Robben, now 37, initially brought an illustrious playing career to an end in July 2019 shortly after his 10-year spell with Bayern finished. Although at the time he was linked with a potential return to the team that gave him his professional debut, Robben – who suffered with numerous injury problems throughout his career – opted to retire. He then caused something of a shock as he finally went back to the place where it all began, but once again injuries blighted his season, restricting him to just seven Eredivisie appearances. It's unclear if he'll play on into 2021-22, though either way it's safe to assume Groningen will be where he retires once and for all.

Juan Roman Riquelme - Argentinos Juniors

Perhaps more synonymous with Boca Juniors, where he made his professional debut and also spent most of his final years, Riquelme also had a strong affinity with Argentinos Juniors. He came through the club's academy in the early-to-mid 1990s, before then finishing his immense career at Estadio Diego Maradona in 2014, having also played for Barcelona, Villarreal and Argentina. Although the iconic attacking midfielder appeared close to joining Paraguay's Cerro Porteno the following year, the move never materialised.

Dirk Kuyt - Quick Boys

Kuyt briefly came out of retirement three years ago to help Quick Boys, with whom he spent 13 years as a youth. Playing in the Derde Divisie Saturday league, Kuyt was already working as assistant at the time, but made himself available for selection during a striker shortage and he made three appearances. The former Netherlands and Liverpool forward had retired the year before following a second spell with Feyenoord, where he had made his initial breakthrough in the mid-2000s, his form at the time earning a move to Anfield.

Rafael Marquez - Atlas

One of Mexico's greatest players, Marquez's longevity at such a high level was nothing short of incredible, as he accumulated 147 international caps. After breaking into the Atlas team as a teenager having come through their academy, the elegant centre-back enjoyed a sparkling career in Europe, winning 14 titles across spells with Monaco and Barcelona. Time with New York Red Bulls, Leon and Hellas Verona followed, before a final two-year stint back at the Jalisco ended in 2018. Although plagued by off-field allegations towards the end of his career, Marquez went on to become the club's sporting president, before standing down last in 2019 to focus on other areas of the sport. He is expected to be taking up a youth coaching role at Barca next season.

Juan Pablo Angel - Atletico Nacional

Angel perhaps never quite lived up to the expectations he set during his early days as part of River Plate's so-called 'Fantastic Four' with Javier Saviola, Ariel Ortega and Pablo Aimar, having joined from Colombia's Nacional. Nevertheless, he became a fan favourite at Aston Villa in the Premier League, before spending six years in MLS with New York Red Bulls, Los Angeles Galaxy and Chivas USA. In 2013 he returned to Nacional for two seasons, having left them in 1997. He called it quits in late 2014, just a few days after losing to his former club River in the final of the Copa Sudamericana. "I am ending my career with a final between the two clubs I love the most," he said.

Henrik Larsson - Hogaborgs

While the Swedish club most may associate with Larsson is Helsingborgs, he actually made the breakthrough at a smaller side – Hogaborgs. It was here where he trained from the age of six, before eventually becoming a regular in the senior side and earning a move to Helsingborgs. A trophy-laden career followed, taking him to Feyenoord, Celtic, Barcelona and Manchester United. Although he retired in 2009, he returned to the pitch for Raa in the Swedish third tier three years later, before then finding himself back in the team at Hogaborgs in 2013, helping out due to an injury crisis despite him only previously being registered to a casual team for 'seniors'. This gave him the chance to play alongside his son, Jordan.

Carlos Tevez - Boca Juniors

The Tevez-Boca love affair has dominated most of the striker's successful and complex career. After coming through their youth ranks, the feisty forward was seen as the heir to Maradona. A brief stint in Brazil with Corinthians followed, but Europe had long since beckoned, even if West Ham was by no means the expected destination. He went on to play for Manchester United and Manchester City, increasing tension between the clubs, before then going to Juventus, but throughout this time Tevez seemed to long for a return to Boca. He went back to La Bombonera in 2015, his homecoming interrupted by a brief spell with Shanghai Shenhua in 2017 in the Chinese Super League, though even Tevez acknowledged he saw his time in China as a "holiday". "He filled Santa's sack with dollars and now he has returned to Boca" was Maradona's assessment upon 'El Apache's' return from the CSL. His third spell with Boca ended in June 2021, though it remains to be seen if he ever plays for another club.

Related items

  • Xavi reaffirms desire for 'dream' Barcelona job Xavi reaffirms desire for 'dream' Barcelona job

    Xavi has once again expressed his desire to coach Barcelona as the former midfielder revealed returning to his former club is his "goal and dream".

    Barca great Xavi has managed Qatari side Al-Sadd since retiring in 2019 – leading them to five domestic cups and a league title – but has regularly admitted that he wants the top job with the Catalan giants.

    The 41-year-old was linked to the role in August 2020 before Ronald Koeman's appointment and the Dutchman has seen his position come under scrutiny following a mixed start to the new term.

    Barca currently sit seventh in LaLiga and suffered back-to-back Champions League group stage defeats for the first time since 2000-01, leading Xavi to once again be linked to Koeman's job.

    While Koeman's position has seemingly improved ahead of Sunday's crucial Clasico against Real Madrid, a fixture Barca have not won in four LaLiga meetings, Xavi reaffirmed his desire to return to his former club in future.

    "My ideal is to coach Barcelona," Xavi told 20 Minutes. "I have never hidden it, it is my goal and my dream.

    "I don't know if it will happen or not, if they will need me or not, but at the moment I am happy to be in Al-Sadd and very proud of it.

    "Obviously, it is the beginning of my career. I am beginning. It is my third year at Al-Sadd as a coach and I am gaining experience.

    "If any offer comes in, it will be evaluated and then we will try to decide, but at the moment I am very happy here."

    Xavi appeared 715 times for Barca across all competitions - scoring 79 times and assisting 130 goals between 1998 and 2015 - with only Lionel Messi playing more games (766).

    And Al-Sadd's head coach - who moved to the Qatari outfit in 2015 and later signed a contract extension as coach until May 2023 - has been pleased with his work, both managerially and his former playing days.

    "During my time at Barcelona and with the national team, I always tried to do my bit to help and improve other players, and this is something that I am now enjoying a lot in my new career as a coach," he continued.

    "I already did it as a captain, but now as a coach, and I am happy to see the evolution of the local players and to know that I am doing my bit."

  • Klopp not encouraged by United's first-half flop against Atalanta Klopp not encouraged by United's first-half flop against Atalanta

    Jurgen Klopp dismissed suggestions Manchester United's languid first-half showing against Atalanta on Wednesday would be encouraging for Liverpool.

    United fell two goals behind against Atalanta after just 29 minutes – the earliest they have been two down in the Champions League at Old Trafford since October 2012.

    However, Cristiano Ronaldo scored in his third straight European game to cap a remarkable turnaround as the Red Devils came from behind to win.

    Ahead of Liverpool's trip to United, who have won just one of the last 10 top-flight meetings with the Reds, Klopp insisted United's performance was not as bad as some made out.

    "I was watching the game and there was not one second where I was rubbing my hands together," Klopp responded at Friday's pre-match news conference.

    "There was no reason for it if you watched the game, Atalanta caused United some problems but even then United had three clear chances in the first half.

    "With the quality they have, they can cause any team problems and the second half was a demonstration of United going for it - I am preparing the team for a tough game against a really tough opponent.

    "United versus Liverpool is a massive game. Man United are not overly happy with their results but they are able to do incredible stuff. We will focus on ourselves."

    Liverpool are on an 18-game unbeaten run – the longest current streak in England's top four tiers – and have scored three-plus goals in each of their last five top-flight away games.

    The Reds, following their 4-2 win at Old Trafford in May, could make it back-to-back away league wins against United for the first time since January 2002.

    However, Klopp remains without midfielder Thiago Alcantara for the trip as the Spain international remains out with a calf injury, though Curtis Jones may return.

    "What's clear is that Curtis will train today with us the full session, that's the plan," Klopp told Liverpool's official website.

    "And Thiago not. So, these are the two things I know for the moment," before adding to reporters later: "Thiago is running, which is a good sign. Maybe he's back before the international break, but we will see."

  • Haaland out for a few weeks with hip flexor injury, Dortmund boss confirms Haaland out for a few weeks with hip flexor injury, Dortmund boss confirms

    Borussia Dortmund boss Marco Rose has revealed that a hip flexor injury will rule out talisman Erling Haaland for the next few weeks.

    The striker only returned to action in last weekend's win over Mainz after a muscular problem saw him miss three games for Rose's side.

    However, the 21-year-old, who has scored 13 goals in 10 appearances across all competitions this season, is now set for another spell on the sidelines. 

    Addressing reporters ahead of Dortmund's trip to Arminia Bielefeld on Saturday, Rose said: "Erling Haaland won't play and will be absent for a few weeks with a hip flexor injury.

    "Haaland has, of course, been down. He was happy to be back and still felt really good after the Mainz game."

    Rose confirmed that Thomas Meunier and Nico Schulz will also be absent this weekend through injury.

    Haaland provided fans with an update on Friday. Posting to his 1.3 million followers on Twitter, he said: "Time to focus on my recovery, I'll be back stronger."

    Dortmund are second in the Bundesliga with 18 points from their opening eight games, just one point behind leaders and reigning champions Bayern Munich.

© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.