Soccer star Landon Donovan recently announced that he would be leaving his retirement to return to the sport he loves and signed on to play in Mexico. Donovan, who holds numerous records in the MLS and also with the U.S Men’s National team, is hardly the first player to decide that he wasn’t ready to hang up his cleats and came back to play.
Here are some other players that have returned to the pitch to play some more soccer (or football, for all you non-American types.)
Donovan has collected serious accolades throughout his career history. He is the all-time lead goal scorer for the LA Galaxy, the MLS, and the Men’s National Team. Additionally, he has appeared in three World Cups. Now, the forward/attacking midfielder has come out of retirement– again. He previously retired from the game in August 2014 after many seasons with MLS LA Galaxy, then came back to play for LA Galaxy in September 2016. In March 2017, Donovan hung in the towel for what fans thought would be the last time. However, the 36-year-old recently signed on to play with Liga MX team Club León. So why Mexico? Why come back? Donovan says that he finally found something in Mexico that he lost a long time ago, which was his love for soccer.
In addition to Donovan, here are four other famous soccer players that retired from the game a little too early and just had to come back.
In his 23 years as a professional player, the Brazilian soccer star retired at age 42 in 2008 after scoring over 1000 goals. A year later, in 2009, the striker came out of retirement to play for the America Football Club. His late father was a huge supporter of the team, and to honor this, Romário put back on his cleats and played a couple more games. After fulfilling his promise to his father, the 43-year-old officially called it quits and has since gone into politics, becoming a member of the Brazilian senate.
As a 32-year-old in 2002, Henrik Larsson quit the Swedish National Team after the World Cup. Then he came out of international retirement to play in Euro 2004. During this time, the striker continued playing on his club team, although in the summer of 2004, he did switch from Celtic FC to FC Barcelona. In 2006, Larsson switched from Barcelona to Swedish club team Helsingborg and additionally declared that he was once again retiring from international play. Euro 2008 then convinced Larsson to come back and play with the Swedish International Team for one more go. Finally in October 2009, the 38-year-old announced his decision to retire from his current Swedish team, Helsingborg as well as the Swedish National Team. In 2013, he did make one more professional appearance with the Swedish soccer club, Högaborg to play alongside his 16-year-old son.
An attacking midfielder for the France national team, Cannes, Bordeaux, Juventus and Real Madrid, Zinedine Zidane was awarded FIFA’s World Player of the Year three times. He was most known for his superb ball control and excellent leadership. After France was eliminated from Euro 2004, Zidane declared his retirement from international soccer. Then for the 2006 World Cup, France was in danger of qualifying, so manager Raymond Domenech reached out to Zidane, the then 34-year-old, asking him to come back as a captain. However, during their match against Italy, Zidane got into an argument with Italy’s Marco Materazzi and ended up head-butting him. This resulted in Zidane receiving a red card and the immediate termination of his soccer career. He remains involved in the professional soccer world as Real Madrid’s current manager.
The Brazilian forward is known to be one of the greatest players in soccer history. Pelé made the bicycle kick famous, won three World Cups, and scored 1281 goals out of the 1363 games he played in. In 1971, at the age of 34, he played his last game for the Brazil National Team. The Brazil government urged him to play in the 1974 World Cup, but Pelé refused. Then in 1975, Pelé came out of retirement to play for the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League where he signed on to a $2.8 million contract, becoming the highest paid athlete in the world. Finally, in 1977 Pelé said goodbye to the crowds chanting his name and retired for good. After retiring, he became very involved in philanthropy work, including UNICEF and currently acts as the FIFA Ambassador against racism among many other things.