Robben, Marquez, Larsson and the stars who went back to retire at their first club

By Sports Desk June 28, 2020

Arjen Robben's retirement lasted just a single season, as the Netherlands and Bayern Munich great announced on Saturday he is to return to boyhood club Groningen for the 2020-21 campaign.

Robben, 36, brought an illustrious playing career to an end last July shortly after his 10-year spell with Bayern came to an end.

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.

But now he looks set to return, not only to top-tier football, but at the place where it all began.

In honour of Robben's return to his first club, we identified some other high-profile players who went to finish their careers back home.

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 two 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 year to focus on other areas of the sport.

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.

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    As Napoli fans and Naples natives mourn the death of Maradona, De Laurentiis confirmed the Stadio San Paolo is likely to be named after the football icon.

    In a letter written to Maradona on Napoli's official website, De Laurentiis said: "You leave us with a great testament of what it means to be a man of fragility, strength and absolute love for life and one's neighbour. A unique, inimitable champion.

    "Your weaknesses, your imperfections, your mistakes are tantamount to your immense greatness, though none of that compares to your legend.

    "Many have said you represent the synthesis of genius and unruliness. An artist of the beautiful game, your unique brushstrokes are to be remembered in the pantheon of the greatest exponents. Like a restless work of Caravaggio, whose indomitable and unruly nature is forgiven for its immense greatness.

    "I believe it is right to name the San Paolo after you, so we can keep you with us as a witness of the excellent path this team has taken.

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    "Thank you, Diego. You are, and will always be, with all of us."

    Maradona won 91 caps for Argentina between 1977 and 1994, scoring 34 goals at international level.

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    Maradona also had stints in charge of Textil Mandiyu, Racing Club, Al-Wasl, Fujairah and Dorados de Sinaloa in Mexico before being appointed head coach by Gimnasia y Esgrima La Plata last year.

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    "He couldn't be bigger. He was and will continue to be an idol," Bielsa told a news conference.

    "Given the fact he's not here with us anymore brings us great sadness. Having lost an idol is something that makes us feel weak.

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    DRUGS DON'T WORK

    Maradona was said to have first dabbled in drugs in the mid-1980s, and cocaine began to play a big part in his career. In Naples, a city where chaos plays a big part in the daily life of many, Maradona lived on the edge, risking his health with the Class A drug while attempting to still produce on the pitch.

    His form began to fall away, and comeuppance came with a 15-month drugs ban imposed in 1991, before Maradona moved to Sevilla.

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    GUN DRAMA

    Maradona was sentenced to a suspended jail sentence of two years and 10 months in 1998, four years on from an incident that saw him shoot at journalists with an air rifle.

    The February 1994 episode occurred outside his Buenos Aires home, and it was reported that four people were injured.

    Footage showed Maradona perched behind a Mercedes car, pointing the gun.

    TAXING TIMES

    He claimed to have been "treated like the worst criminal" by Italian authorities that were pursuing him for allegedly unpaid taxes.

    Speaking in 2016, Maradona told the Corriere della Sera newspaper: "I don't owe anything. They have been hounding me unfairly over the last 25 years for €40million with €35million in fines for an alleged tax violation that every single judge has ruled did not exist."

    Maradona added, according to ESPN, that he had been singled out as the only footballer to have jewellery and watches taken away by authorities.

    HOW WOULD HE MANAGE?

    Putting Maradona in charge of the Argentina national team looked like a dicey move, and his two-year reign effectively ended with a 4-0 defeat to Germany in the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals.

    Argentina had been in danger of missing out on the tournament but won their last two qualifying matches to scrape into the finals.

    Maradona was predictably elated with qualification, proving his doubters wrong, and ran into trouble when he told reporters to "suck it and keep on sucking it".

    FIFA imposed a two-month ban for the lewd outburst, with Maradona apologising for his comments.

    CEILING A DEAL WITH THE POPE

    By the late 1980s, Maradona was arguably the world's most celebrated sports star.

    Such celebrity status opens doors, and he met with Pope John Paul II.

    Maradona told a story in his autobiography, I Am Diego, of how he took issue with the pontiff's concern for poverty-stricken children, given the luxury set-up at the Vatican.

    He wrote: "Yes, I did argue with the Pope. I argued with him because I've been to the Vatican and seen the gold ceilings. And then I hear the Pope saying that the Church was concerned about poor kids. So? Sell the ceilings, mate! Do something!"

    HAND OF GOD

    From the Pope, to the Hand of God.

    Maradona's status in England will forever be tainted by his controversial opening goal for Argentina against Bobby Robson's team in the 1986 World Cup quarter-final.

    By punching the ball past goalkeeper Peter Shilton, who has not forgiven Maradona, the mercurial captain of Los Albiceleste became an instant hate figure for English supporters.

    Maradona claimed it was God's hand that helped Argentina past their rivals at the Stadio Azteca, a step nearer their eventual triumph and his finest moment in the game.

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