Socrates signing for Garforth Town & football's Top 10 comebacks

With Paul Scholes having been tempted out of retirement by Manchester United, has decided to take a look at some of those who have done likewise through the years
By Mark Doyle

When it was first reported on Sunday that Paul Scholes had come out of retirement to re-sign for Manchester United, his ex-England team-mate Les Ferdinand's unintentionally brilliant take on the game's enduring ability to confound its followers came to mind: “I was surprised but, as I always say, nothing surprises me in football.”

Indeed, that the Red Devils had yet to adequately replace the now 37-year-old midfielder, who only retired at the end of last season is hardly shocking; as much as it would now kill him to say it, manager Sir Alex Ferguson is still searching for someone to fill the void left by Roy Keane – who departed Old Trafford in acrimony in 2005.

What was shocking, though, was that Scholes had decided to reverse his decision to call time on his career.

Firstly, this was a player who had repeatedly resisted calls to return to the international arena after turning his back on England in 2004. Secondly, football is not like boxing: when a player decides enough is enough, they usually never attempt a comeback so accustomed do they become to enjoying the fruits of their labour.

However, there have been several notable instances of players deciding to have one more crack at the big time - albeit with varying degrees of success ...

10. JENS LEHMANN (Arsenal)
Arsenal were rocked by an injury crisis midway through last season which left them with just one fit goalkeeper.

Manager Arsene Wenger was desperate for cover - and desperate people will do desperate things, so the Frenchman turned to former Gunner Jens Lehmann, the outspoken German who had retired following the expiration of his contract with Stuttgart in the summer of 2010.

The 41-year-old was not expected to see any game time but then Arsenal's first-choice No.1 Manuel Almunia was injured in the warm-up for an away game against Blackpool and Lehmann stepped in to make what was his 200th appearance for the club.

However, he did not feature again before the end of the season and his inevitable re-retirement.
9. MARK BOSNICH (Central Coast Mariners)
Another goalkeeping bad boy, Mark Bosnich slipped out of the game and into a full-blown cocaine addiction after being banned for nine months in September 2002 for failing a drugs test while on Chelsea's books.

The Australian was repeatedly linked with a return to football over the next few years before eventually attempting to resurrect his career in 2008 with the Central Coast Mariners.

However, he made only four appearances for the Gosford-based side before moving on to Sydney Olympic.

Bosnich then played just eight more games before suffering a hamstring injury which prompted him to quit for good and focus on his burgeoning career as a pundit with Fox Sports.

A former cocaine addict entering the world of television, what could possibly go wrong?

8. PELE (New York Cosmos)
Of course, the most high-profile returnee of them all is the self-proclaimed greatest of them all, Edson Arantes do Nascimento, who is better known to you, me and sufferers of impotence as Pele.

The legendary Brazil No.10 officially called time on his playing career in 1972 but he made sporadic appearances for his beloved Santos over the next few years before coming out of semi-retirement to sign for the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League.

Pele was no longer the player who had lit up with the 1970 World Cup but he had not lost his innate ability to do magical things with a football and he played an integral role in what was an ultimately futile but ridiculously entertaining attempt to establish ‘soccer’ as a major sport in the States.
7. ROMARIO (America Football Club)
Like his compatriot Pele, Romario has never been lacking in confidence. The striker claims to have scored over 1,000 goals over the course of his long, illustrious and peripatetic career, which featured spells at PSV, Barcelona and Valencia among others.

While his talent was undeniable, his temperament was always questionable. He alienated team-mates with his arrogance and infuriated coaches with his laziness.

However, he was not all bad, because he came out of retirement in 2009, just over a year after hanging up his boots, to fulfil his late father’s dream that he don the shirt of America Football Club in an official game before giving up for good.

Romario played 22 minutes of the November 25 clash with Artsul before samba-dancing his way off to the next party.

6. SOCRATES (Garforth Town)
As inspirational off the field as he was on it, Socrates is one of the game’s truly iconic figures and his passing at the tail end of last year at the age of just 57 represented a great loss to the footballing world.

Arguably the finest ever exponent of the backheel, this was a stylish attacking midfielder of impeccable poise and outrageous panache.

That the leader of Brazil’s ridiculously talented 1982 World Cup side finished his career lining out in the Northern Counties East Football League seems perverse, Socrates having played one game for Garforth Town after coming out of retirement aged 50 to accept a one-month player-coaching role with the non-league outfit.

Then again, this beer-swilling, chain-smoking political activist with a degree in medicine never really was one for convention.

5. JURGEN KLINSMANN (Orange County Blue Star)
While Socrates realised after a 12-minute appearance in his one and only game for Garforth that his legs were no longer up to the rigours of ‘competitive’ football, German striking and diving legend Jurgen Klinsmann was pleasantly surprised to discover during his own comeback attempt that he still knew where the goal was.

One of the deadliest forwards of his generation, Klinsmann called time on his career in the summer of 1998 after his nation’s rather disappointing World Cup campaign in France.

The former Inter and Tottenham Hotspur ace then set up residence in California and was tempted out of retirement by local outfit Orange County Blue Star in 2003.

Klinsmann plundered eight goals in 13 appearances before deciding he was ready to try his hand at coaching.
4. JIMMY GREAVES (Brentwood)
Klinsmann is not the only legendary marksman to have been lured back by an insatiable need for goals.

The prolific Jimmy Greaves called time on his career in 1971 only to reverse his decision some four years later, with the former England international, who netted 44 times in 57 appearances for his country, resurfacing with Brentwood. A spell with Chelmsford City followed before Greaves, now thriving as a midfielder, was taken on by Barry Fry’s Barnet.

However, Greaves was released after a couple of seasons with the club and, after lining up for Woodford Town, arguably the finest goalscorer the English game has ever produced retired for good.
3. MARC OVERMARS (Go Ahead Eagles)
Perhaps the most surprising comeback on our list is that of Marc Overmars, who announced in the summer of 2004 that he had been advised to retire by doctors because of a long-standing knee injury.

It seemed that we would never again see the fleet-footed Dutch winger with the remarkable turn of pace on a football field.

However, Overmars was persuaded into making a cameo appearance in Jaap Stam’s testimonial in 2008 and, after terrorising Ajax defender George Ogararu with his trickery of old, he decided to come out of retirement with Go Ahead Eagles.

The former Barcelona ace made 24 appearances for the Deventer outfit the following season before finally opting to call it a day.
2. STEPHEN CARR (Birmingham City)
Stephen Carr’s story is somewhat similar to that of Overmars – although the Irishman needed even less time to realise that he could still cut it at the top level.

The full-back was released by Newcastle United in the summer of 2008 and, after rejecting interest from several clubs, he announced his retirement from football that December.

However, he performed a dramatic u-turn less than three months later, signing a one-month contract with Birmingham City which was promptly extended until the end of the season.

Carr ultimately penned a two-year deal with the Blues and remains an integral part of the Birmingham outfit today, having recently made his 100th appearance for the club.
1. JOCELYN ANGLOMA (L'Etoile de Morne-a-l'Eau)
Still, Carr has nothing on fellow full-back Jocelyn Angloma, who starred for a plethora of top European clubs in his pomp and also represented France at both Euro 92 and Euro 96.

After five successful seasons at Valencia, Angloma decided in 2002, aged 36, that he had given all he had to give.

Only, he wasn't done. Not by a long shot - because Angloma is still going strong today.

After being tempted out of retirement in 2006 by his native Guadeloupe, whom he helped qualify for the 2007 Caribbean Nations Cup, he signed for L'Etoile de Morne-a-l'Eau, where he is now flourishing as a midfield playmaker at the grand old age of 46.