Gareth Bale could return to Cardiff
After Gareth Bale’s departure from Real Madrid, one could imagine a host of career options for him. In club football, the Welshman’s reputation seems hopelessly shaken. At the same time, at Wales level, he is a real hero, having helped lead the team to the World Cup for the first time in 64 years. Bale himself realises that his only chance to restart his career is to cling to the national team until the last minute.
Therefore, when he left Real Madrid as a free agent, he stressed that he would choose his next club based on his family’s interests and the opportunity to prepare in the best possible way for the 2022 World Cup. And then, among other options, Cardiff City suddenly appeared. Such a deep return to origins no longer seems unrealistic now, and the modest Championship club are in talks with the 32-year-old star in the hope that he will give up a substantial chunk of his £554,000 salary for the chance to be at home in comfort.
A deal with Cardiff is shocking, but would not be anything new in the world of football, where stars in their 30s and 40s don’t often go home to finish their careers at fairly modest clubs. Let’s look at some other examples.
Born in Helsingborg, Larsson joined local club Hegaborg at the age of six before making his debut for them in 1989. Four years later he moved to Helsingborg where he scored 50 goals in 56 games. Larsson’s prolific career at Celtic (174 goals in 221 games) was preceded by four seasons at Feyenoord from 1993 to 1997, then two years at Barcelona.
He returned to Helsingborg in 2006, from where he briefly looked up to Manchester United and Rojo. Larsson promised to return to Hegaborg to finish his career there, but injuries prevented him from doing so. Yet in 2013, at the age of 43, Henrik did get a glimpse at Hegaborg when he faced an onslaught of injuries. There he even got a chance to take to the pitch with his son Jordan.
Racinha de Avellaneda have a humble self-title, Academia de Futbol. It is because of the club’s ability to breed stars. Diego Milito was a pupil of this academy, where he played from 1999 to 2003. Then came Genoa and Zaragoza, but Milito truly began to star at Inter where he arrived in 2009. He scored 75 goals and made 29 assists, becoming the MVP of 2009/10 season, winning the Italian League, Cup and Champions League. Milito returned to Rising in 2014 and played his last match for Rising at the age of 36.
Robin van Persie
The former Arsenal and Manchester United star made his debut for Feyenoord from his native Rotterdam at the age of 17 in the 2001/02 season. In 2004, the Dutchman moved to Arsenal where he scored 132 goals in 278 games. There he cemented his status as a global star and one of England’s top goalscorers. His controversial move to Man Utd may have had an impact on his reputation but not on his performance. And when England became difficult for Robin, he moved to Fenerbahce. He spent three years there before returning to Feyenoord in 2018.
At the age of five, Keit started his football journey at the modestly amateur Quick Boyz, where he was spotted by Utrecht, which began the professional mode of the Dutchman’s career. There Keith spent five seasons, and in 2003 he moved to Feyenoord. He scored 20 goals in his debut season, and two years later he became captain of Rotterdam.
The Quick Boyz received a surprise £300,000 as their interest after Keita moved to Liverpool in 2006. Dirk spent six years at Anfield, scoring 71 goals in 285 games. Then there was a route almost like van Persie’s: through Fenerbahce and Feyenoord. Keith announced his retirement in 2017, but a year after that he decided to play for the Quick Boyz to help the team climb to the third division. And he did, didn’t he!
But Torres’ hometown club were far less humble. Fernando joined Atletico at the age of 11 in 1995 and made his debut for the main team six years later. He didn’t win any trophies in his first stint, but he did score 90 goals before moving to Liverpool in 2007. There, Fernando quickly became one of the main protagonists and favourites, and at the same time became one of the symbols of the triumphant Spanish national team.
Atletico re-signed Torres in 2015 – by then the forward had already passed through Chelsea and AC Milan. At Madrid, Fernando has been able to regain a bit of the reputation he lost after his visit to Chelsea in three years. It should be noted that Torres did not stop at Atletico Madrid and travelled to Japan, where he finished his career and then headed the Matranos youth team.
Growing up as an Everton fan, Rooney made his debut for the team at the age of 16. In October 2002 he scored the iconic winning goal against Arsenal late in the game, ending the Canaries’ 30-match winning streak. Rooney moved to Manchester United in 2004, where he played until 2017, becoming a true legend there. He won everything he could with MU.
A return to Everton came in 2017. Although it turned out not to be a career ending and was rather short. That said, there he crossed the historic mark of 200 goals in the Premier League, becoming the second such player after Alan Shearer. His second stint with the Toffees was followed by a trip to DC United, and Rooney ended his career at Derby County, where he became head coach in 2020.
The legendary goalkeeper started his career more than 30 years ago at Parma. After four years as a youth player, Buffon made his Parma debut in 1995. In 2001, Juventus brought Buffon to the Turin club, winning 18 major trophies and becoming a symbol of the club. There was a brief stint at PSG, then a return to Juventus where Buffon did not become the starting goalkeeper. But then he went to Parma and recalled his youth. Last season he made 26 appearances for Parma in Serie B.
Born and raised in Buenos Aires, Tevez started his career in 2001 with Boca Juniors before moving to Corinthians four seasons later. In January 2007, West Ham brought Tevez to England and his impressive play attracted Manchester United. After five trophies with MU, including a Champions League win, Tevez made the controversial move to Manchester City. “He helped the Citizens win their first league title, scoring 70 goals in four seasons. And a two-year stay at Juventus preceded his first return to Boca. From there, he left for Shanghai Shenhua before returning to Boca Juniors where he played for the rest of his career.