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Five famous footballers who unhung their boots and came out of retirement

Petr Cech is back in football after being named in Chelsea’s squad for the Premier League season, the former favourite included as emergency cover for the club’s goalkeeping options.

Cech previously spent more than a decade at the west London side and established himself as a club legend after winning a wealth of silverware including four league titles, later joining London rivals Arsenal before his retirement last year.


Having been appointed as Chelsea’s technical and performance adviser upon his retirement, the possibility of Cech making a surprise return to the pitch is now possible, the veteran just a couple of injuries away from potentially donning the gloves once more.

The former Czech Republic international would not be the first player to make a shock return to the sport, however, and we’ve decided to look back at some other notable names to have done a u-turn.

Here are five famous footballers who unhung their boots and came out of retirement:

Roger Milla

Roger Milla is fondly remembered as one of the stars of the 1990 World Cup following his exploits for Cameroon, but it could all have been so different for forward had he not received a phone call from the nation’s president.

Milla had retired from international duty two years earlier and had made a decision to wind down his career with a move to the Indian Ocean island of Reunion to play for Saint-Pierroise, only to receive a call from Cameroon president, Paul Biya, asking him to rejoin the Indomitable Lions.

The forward agreed and headed to Italia ’90 as a 38-year-old veteran before surprisingly emerging as one of the defining players of the tournament, dancing his way into the neutral’s hearts after helping Cameroon become the first African side to reach the knockout stages with a four-goal haul, netting doubles in victories over Romania and Colombia.

Incredibly, the evergreen star returned four years later for the 1994 World Cup in the United States, where he broke his own record as the oldest goalscorer in the tournament’s history with a strike against Russia, aged 42.

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Marc Overmars

Marc Overmars was a whirlwind of speed and skill during a memorable career that took in spells at the likes of Ajax, Arsenal and Barcelona, winning four league titles and the Champions League amongst an impressive collection of silverware.

The former Netherlands international chose to retire from football following a succession of injuries and a four-year spell at the Camp Nou, only for a memorable testimonial performance to prompt a rethink.

Overmars starred in a friendly fixture marking the career of Jaap Stam some four years after his retirement, winding the back the clock with a display of trademark pace and purpose, a performance which reportedly prompted enquiries from a host of top-flight clubs.

Overmars, however, was only keen on one destination and signed for first club Go Ahead Eagles, rejoining the Dutch outfit a huge 1,545 days after announcing his retirement at Barcelona.

The winger made 24 goalless appearances during a single season return with the second tier side, but injuries – much as they had throughout his latter career – restricted his impact, Overmars starting just a third of those fixtures.

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Carlos Roa

Amongst the most unique reasons for announcing a retirement and subsequent return, former Argentina international Carlos Roa chose to walk away from the game not because of injury or advancing years, but because the goalkeeper believed the world was heading for an impending apocalypse.

Roa had impressed for Argentina during the 1998 World Cup and helped club side Mallorca to the finals of the Copa del Rey and Cup Winners’ Cup, with Manchester United reportedly interested in his services following the departure of Peter Schmeichel.

At the peak of his powers, however, the Seventh-day Adventist retired from football in order to take a religious retreat, in the belief that the world would end upon the turn of the millennium.

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When the new year came around with the end of the world seemingly no closer, Roa returned to Mallorca a year after his retirement to play out the final two seasons of his contract, though his year absence from the game meant he failed to rediscover his best form.

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Paul Scholes

Paul Scholes announced his retirement after winning a tenth league title at Manchester United in 2011, the midfielder calling time on a glittering one-club career at Old Trafford.

Less than a year later, however, Sir Alex Ferguson named one of the club’s favourite sons on the substitutes’ bench for an FA Cup derby clash against Manchester City, a shock return that not even his teammates had been aware of.

Scholes had been working as an assistant manager of the reserve team but feeling he could still do a job, approached Ferguson and his coaching staff about a return.

Ferguson – who had fielded the likes of Phil Jones and Rafael Da Silva in central midfield amid a lack of options – was unsurprisingly welcoming of the idea and Scholes was back, playing out the final six months of the season before signing a new one-year extension.

The following season saw Scholes add an 11th Premier League title to an ever-growing silverware cabinet, before he – and Ferguson – rode off into the sunset a final time.

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Arjen Robben

The most recent inclusion on this list, Cech’s former Chelsea teammate Arjen Robben reversed his decision to retire in order for one final swansong in his native Netherlands.

Robben starred as one of the world’s finest footballers during a lengthy career at the top, the peak of which came during a decade at Bayern Munich, winning eight league titles and the Champions League.

After a career in which he reached the pinnacle of club football, Robben retired at the age of 35, only to reverse his decision a year later with a sentimental return to first club FC Groningen.

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Robben had come through the academy ranks at his boyhood side and made his debut for the club as a teenager before moving to PSV Eindhoven, returning this summer some two decades after that first-team bow.

The veteran made his second debut for Groningen against another former side in PSV last month, though it proved a day to forget as the 36-year-old was substituted after just 29 minutes after picking up a groin injury.

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