Arjen Robben’s emotional return to Groningen lasted less than 30 minutes on Sunday as he was forced out of his comeback match with a groin injury.
Former Netherlands star Robben announced his retirement from football in 2019 after leaving Bayern Munich, having enjoyed a glittering spell of 10 seasons with the Bundesliga giants.
However, in an attempt to help Groningen recover from the impact of Covid-19, the veteran winger confirmed he would be returning to the club where he began his career for the 2020-21 season.
On Sunday, the 36-year-old was named in Groningen’s XI against PSV for the clubs’ first league match of the campaign.
It proved a short stint for the ex-Bayern, Chelsea and Real Madrid ace, though, who was taken off with an apparent muscular complaint in the first half.
Robben sat down on the pitch 29 minutes into the game in some discomfort and asked for the substitution, eventually limping off to be replaced by Tomas Suslov.
PSV took full advantage, as two goals from Cody Gakpo helped his side to a 3-1 win over Groningen on the afternoon.
Speaking to Fox Sports after the match, Groningen head coach Danny Buijs confirmed Robben had suffered a groin problem and admitted he didn’t know if the veteran’s comeback would end after just one game.
“I didn’t speak to him after the match. He was very disappointed and went home,” Buijs said. “He was forced to leave the pitch in the first half, so I get why he didn’t stay until the end of the match. He might have taken a shower and left.
“I completely understand his feelings. He worked so hard and did everything to be here, so it’s very harsh and frustrating for him.”
When asked if Robben’s comeback could be over already, Buijs said: “I don’t know. I can’t say anything about that. I didn’t have a chat with him yet, but in general you know it’s bad news when an injury kicks in this hard.”
Robben was given the start on Saturday, which allowed him to break a record set by Robin van Persie.
Robben’s Eredivisie comeback, against one of his former teams, came after an absence of 16 years and 155 days from the Dutch league.
Van Persie spent 13 years and 267 days away from the Eredivisie between his two spells at Feyenoord, which was previously the longest time between appearances in the competition.