The world over there will be Messi fans hoping that the Argentine joins this list of superstars who called it quits, only to return to sport later on.
Will Messi do the same or is his time up for his national side? Share with us your thoughts by commenting below, using #360fans on Twitter or getting in touch via Facebook.
Five NBA championship rings and an Olympic gold medal were the hallmarks of a storied career for Magic Johnson whose career was abruptly brought to an end after contracting HIV in 1991. He returned for the 1992 All-Star match and was given MVP before being forced to once again bow out of the game after protests from fellow players. He later returned with the Lakers in 1996 for a season before retiring for good.
A ‘loss of desire’ saw the greatest player in the NBA call it quits in 1993 and sensationally attempt to build a career in baseball, fulfilling a lifelong dream spurred by the murder of his father. A baseball strike and botched foray in MLB saw him return to the court in 1995 before a second retirement in 1999, a comeback in 2001 and third and final retirement in 2003.
The most marketable man in MMA drew major headlines earlier this year after a fallout with UFC bosses over media demands on his schedule. McGregor took to Twitter to call time on his career, throwing UFC 200 into doubt and putting head honcho Dana White under the cosh without his star attraction. McGregor returns to the ring for UFC 202, just months after saying he wouldn’t fight again.
Back in 1974, Pele moved into semi-retirement as he decided at the age of 34 that he would only occasionally turn out for Santos. A few games here and there followed as the sun began to set on one of football’s most memorable careers. That was until New York Cosmos came calling and Pele was thrust at the forefront of helping ‘soccer’ break America. He managed to popularise the sport and went on to score 31 goals in 56 matches for the Cosmos before calling time on his playing days for good in 1977.
In keeping with some of the other star names on this list, Brett Favre didn’t just retire once, he retired thrice. The first instance came in 2008 when Favre left the Green Bay Packers, ending his career at its peak and bowig out on a high. However, just 12 months later, Favrer was back playing with the New York Jets but his return only lasted a year before his second retirement. Another year later, in 2009, he returned with the Minnesota Vikings, where he lasted two campaigns before calling it a day for good.
Possibly the most perennial retiree on this list, Shahid Afridi has retired so much in his career that only his death will likely bring an end to his playing days. He first quit Test cricket in 2006 before returning just a month later and then retiring again that same year. He eventually returned to Test cricket in 2010 to captain Pakistan in a single match before retiring again. Then, in 2011, Afridi quit international cricket for good after feeling slighted by the PCB only to later return prior to giving up ODI cricket once more in 2012, a decision he then reversed in order to play on until the 2015 World Cup. He has since given up ODIs and the T20I captaincy.
The most decorated Olympian in history, Phelps has 22 medals to his name and 18 golds from the Games. The American gave up the pool after the London 2012 Olympics, bowing out as the most successful athlete to ever grace the Games. However, just two years later Phelps announced that he was plotting a return and targetted the Rio Olympics as the crowning point of his comeback. He now goes to the 2016 Games hoping to add to that stacked medal haul.
A lot of people will say Lance Armstrong should never have come back from retirement. Up until his retirement in 2005 he had won seven straight Tour de France titles and after recovering from cancer was a hero all over the world. He returned to the sport in 2009 with the express aim of winning that year’s Tour, a target he was unable to achieve and wound up calling it a day once more two years on. Eventually, he was found to be sport’s most prolific cheat and was stripped of his titles, his legacy left in tatters.
Back in 2007, Mayweather gave his first hint at retiring having beaten Oscar De La Hoya and briefly calling it quits. He came back to the ring later that year to take on Briton Ricky Hatton, a fight which he won and then called his last. That was until, in 2009, Mayweather ended his 21-month hiatus to return to the ring against Juan Manuel Marquez. More murmurings of retirement followed Mayweather before he hung up his gloves at 49-0. Don’t expect this retirement to last long either, however.
SUGAR RAY LEONARD
Another boxer to make the list, Leonard’s name is as illustrious as Mayweather’s and as associated to retirement as the latter. A retina problem brought an end to Leonard’s career in 1982, before botched attempts to come back to the ring were made over the ensuing four years. Surgery to his eye eventually saw his comeback in 1986 when he beat Marvin Hagler in controversial fashion. He retired after the fight, only to then return just months later. Another retirement and comeback were to happen up until 1988’s call for last orders but Leonard wasn’t done, making yet another comeback in 1996 as a 40-year-old.