GRONINGEN, Netherlands (Reuters) - FC Groningen used the example of Michael Jordan’s basketball comeback in their bid to persuade Dutch international Arjen Robben to return to his first club.
Groningen played Robben clips from the Jordan documentary “Last Dance” along with images of his own glittering career to coax the 36-year-old back 12 months after he left Bayern Munich and announced his retirement.
“We first went to Munich to speak to him about coming to play for us, just days after he retired in May last year,” Groningen technical director Mark-Jan Fledderus told a news conference on Sunday after Robben signed a one-year contract with the club.
“That didn’t happen. But we kept up contact and then arranged secretly with his wife to travel down and talk to him again last month.”
Robben agreed to return to the club where he made his debut as a 16 year old in 2000.
The winger also played for Chelsea, PSV Eindhoven and Real Madrid, winning 12 league titles and earning 96 caps for the Netherlands including the 2010 World Cup final in Johannesburg.
“The difference in the standard between Bayern and Groningen is naturally a lot different but I’m here to help the club,” Robben said.
“You do that by showing the right attitude. I don’t have anything to lose and I’m going into the challenge with a positive attitude and to try and make the best of it. I haven’t set any goals, it could be over in a month or it could last two years.”
Robben was happy his wife Bernadien was in favour of his comeback.
“It made the decision a lot easier knowing I had the support of my family,” he said. “Retiring was the toughest decision of my career, maybe a little forced upon me with all the injuries.
“We decided to stay a year in Munich to enjoy the city and get used to the idea of not playing football. I didn’t watch much for about six months and really enjoyed doing other things.
“But eventually the sports lover in you start to nag and I had been training to run the Rotterdam Marathon before the coronavirus crisis.”
Jordan won three NBA titles with the Chicago Bulls before quitting to play baseball. He returned to Chicago and led them to three more NBA crowns.
Writing by Mark Gleeson in Cape Town; Editing by Ed Osmond