We all love a good comeback, but not all football comebacks are created equal. Some of them were simply incredible whereas others left us wondering why legends would ever take the risk of going back. We have created a list of some of the best and worst comebacks in football history.
1. Hit – Paul Scholes (Manchester United)
When Paul Scholes retired in the summer of 2011 he had 10 Premier League titles to his name in addition to the plethora of titles he won during his glittering career with Manchester United. When The Red Devils found themselves amidst an injury crisis during the 2011/12 season it was the Ginger Prince who answered Sir Alex Ferguson’s call and returned to dawn the red of Manchester once again. Needless to say, it was as if he never left, orchestrating the play from midfield. Although it was the noisy neighbours Manchester City who reigned supreme that season, Scholes extended his contract for a further year which culminated in an eleventh league title before the legendary midfielder decided to hang up his boots a second time. Form is temporary, class is permanent.
2. Miss – Wayne Rooney (Everton)
Perhaps the last of English football’s great talent, 16-year old Wayne Rooney announced himself to the world with that goal against Arsenal, unleashing a swerving drive from 25-yards that bamboozled a hapless David Seaman in goal. What followed was a move to Manchester United for a then world-record-fee for a teenager. Unfazed, Rooney silenced all doubters with a hat-trick on his debut against European opposition Fenerbahçe. Since then Wazza went on to win every trophy at club level and also became England’s highest goalscorer. In the summer of 2017, at the ripe age of 33, the prodigal son returned home, scoring in his league debut to give Everton a 1-0 win over Stoke City. Once all the initial frenzy had died down it was plain to see that the once generational talent had finally burnt out. Rooney went on to score 11 goals in 40 appearances for The Blues before moving to USA to play for DC United.
3. Hit – Thierry Henry (Arsenal)
The King of Highbury came back to Arsenal during the twilight of his career for a short loan spell. Far removed from his glory days the bright lights fell on Henry one last time as came off the bench and rolled back the years to score the only goal of the match in true nostalgic fashion against Leeds United to set the Gunners’ faithful in raptures. The Frenchman would only appear six more times for Arsenal before heading back to parent club New York Red Bulls in the MLS. It was short, but boy was it sweet!
4. Hit – Didier Drogba (Chelsea)
Didier Drogba won Chelsea the UEFA Champions League title with seemingly his last kick of a football when his penalty kick delivered the holy grail for The Blues. What a way to go out eh? Well, Big Drogs wasn’t quite done, the Ivorian striker returned to Stamford Bridge for one final stint during the 2014/15 campaign under the stewardship of manager Jose Mourinho. Everything had come full circle and the Blues clinch their 4th Premier League title with Drogba leaving the pitch on the shoulders of his teammates during the final game of the season.
5. Miss – Cesc Fàbregas (FC Barcelona)
Cesc Fabregas left Barcelona as a sixteen year old to sign for Arsenal. Under the guidance of manager Arsène Wenger the Spaniard would grow up to be one of the game’s finest playmakers, so when he re-signed for his boyhood club in the summer of 2011 expectations were set sky high for the La Masia graduate. Unfortunately for Cesc, he never found his feet at Barca, although trophies were aplenty, he lived in the shadow of Messi, Xavi and Iniesta, and always seemed like a square peg trying to fit into round holes, as he was deployed in a number of positions to help integrate himself in Barca’s team. It was never to be for the Catalan midfielder and he left the Nou Camp after three seasons to join Premier League club Chelsea where he would once again rediscover his form.
6. Miss – Kaká (AC Milan)
Unplayable in the colours of AC Milan during the mid-to-late 2000s, Ricardo Kaká won the 2007 Ballon d’Or and FIFA World Player of the Year for his mesmeric displays which set the UEFA Champions League alight and saw Milan lift European Cup. In the summer of 2009 Kaká signed for Real Madrid for a monumental fee of €67m but a series of unfortunate injuries would see the powers of the great Brazilian slowly wane. Nevertheless, there was great excitement amongst the Milanistas as their hero returned to home in 2013 with hopes of rejuvenating his career. Things were off the worst start imaginable as Kaká tore adductor muscle during his first competitive appearance. Upon returning to action the Brazilian showed glimpses of his incredible talents, however, they were few and far between, and it was all too clear that Kaká was a shell of his former self. The midfielder made 37 appearances and reached some personal milestones but had his contract terminated with a year remaining as Milan failed to qualify for the UEFA Champions League.
7. Miss – Gareth Bale (Tottenham Hotspur)
Revered as on of the best players in the world when he left White Hart Lane to join Real Madrid for a then world record fee of £86 million, things have not turned out the way Spurs; romantics would have imagined for the 4-times UEFA Champions League winner. Once as quick as lightning, Bale looks to have lost several yards of pace and has suffered from fitness issues since his return. To make matters worse it seems his relationship with coach Jose Mourinho is increasingly becoming more and more fractures with each passing day. Will we ever see the Welshman conjure the extraordinary out of the ordinary as he so often did during the season which saw him being crowned as PFA Player of The Year? or is there truth to reports that he’s only back in London for its golf courses?
8. Hit – Zlatan Ibrahimovic (AC Milan)
A 40-year old Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to AC Milan in the summer of 2020 a decade after his initial stint which powered I Rossoneri to their last Scudetto. Initially meant to be a 6-month loan spell, Zlatan defied all physical limitations to bag 10 goals in 18 Serie A appearances dragging a hapless Milan to 6th placed finish. Milan were quick to give the Renaissance Man a much deserved contract extension, and they were not disappointed. Zlatan started off the 2020/21 season playing like a man half his age, scoring an astonishing 12 goals in 14 matches. Will the great Swede do the unthinkable and guide Milan to a Serie A title?