Arjen Robben has decided to bring his playing career to an end just a year after announcing his return with boyhood club Groningen.
Former Bayern Munich and Netherlands great Robben initially called it quits in 2019 following a decade in Bavaria, having seen the final few years of his time in the Bundesliga partially interrupted by fitness problems.
After a season away he announced in June 2020 that he was to return to football with Groningen, the club at which he started his career, in an attempt to help them out amid the coronavirus pandemic.
It was to be his first season in the Eredivisie since 2003-04, which was the last of his two campaigns with PSV prior to joining Chelsea.
However, injuries and fitness issues restricted Robben to just six league outings and he hinted at the end of the season that he may not return.
Now it is official that Robben has hung up his boots, with another U-turn somewhat more unlikely this time at the age of 37.
He said: “A year ago I announced my comeback as an FC Groningen player. I embarked on this adventure with great energy and enthusiasm.
“Looking back on the past season, I have to come to the honest conclusion that the number of match minutes was disappointing. After the last game, I said I would take the time to make an informed decision about the future.
“That was very difficult because the mind and the emotion were in direct opposition. The football heart wanted to move on, especially with that ultimate goal of a full Euroborg [Groningen’s stadium] in prospect.
“But the decision to quit is fair and realistic. That is why from today I am no longer a player, but a supporter of our football club.
“I would like to thank all football supporters and enthusiasts for all the warm support and sweet messages I have received over the past year. That was wonderful and heartwarming.
“I wish everyone a great football season in full stadiums, but above all good health.”
Groningen technical director Mark-Jan Fledderus was keen to stress that the club’s wish was for Robben to carry on for another season, but his decision has been met with respect and understanding.
Fledderus said: “It was common knowledge that we really wanted Arjen to stick with it for another year, but we also said that we appreciate and respect every decision made by him.
“We are especially grateful to Arjen that he took the step last year to make his comeback at FC Groningen.
“What that decision has meant for the club is unique. It shows the incredible commitment to FC Groningen and his love of the club.
“That is unprecedented for a player with his track record. His presence and influence on and off the field was invaluable.”
While the Groningen return perhaps was not the fairy tale ending he had hoped for, Robben’s career was a glorious one.
Robben made his professional debut with Groningen in 2000 and spent two seasons there before joining PSV, where he won a league title in the 2002-03 season.
He won further championships in England, Spain, and Germany with Chelsea, Madrid, and Bayern respectively, in the process becoming one of the world’s best wide players.
He helped win eight Bundesliga titles during his decade with Bayern, plus the Champions League in 2012-13, making 309 appearances across all competitions.
Despite the injuries, Robben still managed to score 144 times for Bayern, including six in 19 matches in his final campaign.
He won 96 caps for the Netherlands, scoring 37 times, and was part of the Dutch team that was beaten in the 2010 World Cup final by Spain in South Africa.