Come back Nico: athletes who retired but returned

Less than a week after winning his first F1 Championship, Rosberg announced his retirement. Let’s hope he pulls a Messi and comes back.

Meryl D'Souza December 4, 2016

Less than a week after he won his first-ever Championship at Abu Dhabi, Nico Rosberg sent the F1 media gathered in Vienna – where he was presented with the championship trophy – into a frenzy by announcing his retirement from the sport. 

No one gathered there believed that the German, who spent the last two years going head-to-head with Mercedes teammate Lewis Hamilton for the biggest prize in the sport of Formula One, would make the trophy he craved most his last.

The 31-year-old had taken the big decision a mere 24 hours after sealing his maiden title in the season finale. Rosberg confirmed that he had spoken to Mercedes team boss, Toto Wolff and Lewis Hamilton before going public. 

In hindsight, we should have seen this coming when the teammates exchanged tweets a day before Rosberg came out with the news. Hamilton sent out a congratulatory tweet that Rosberg graciously acknowledged. No bitterness, no rebukes, just a mutual show of respect between two great drivers – something us fans are not really accustomed to. 

“This season, I tell you, it was so damn tough,” said Rosberg in a message on Twitter. “I pushed like crazy in every area after the disappointments of the last two years; they fuelled my motivation to levels I had never experienced before. And of course that had an impact on the ones I love, too – it was a whole family effort of sacrifice, putting everything behind our target.”

The attention will now shift to who will partner Lewis Hamilton for the 2017 season. Although Pascal Wehrlein, a member of the team’s young driver programme looks to be the obvious choice, F1’s chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone, has said Fernando Alonso would be his choice. 

Lewis Hamilton doesn’t seem too fussed about his new partner issue. “I have never been a driver to ever request,” Hamilton said. “I know a lot of the other drivers, like Sebastian and Fernando, make sure that is in their contract. I have just always asked to have equal rights. So as long as we are treated fairly then it doesn’t matter who is sitting alongside you. We have got great team bosses and I’m sure they will choose the right people to represent them.”

We could sit here and debate for hours on end as to what brought Rosberg shock retirement on but at the end of the day we just have to respect the professional and accept his decision. We are hoping Rosberg has a change of heart and backtracks on his retirement plans. It won’t be the first time a great athlete called time on his career only to return.

Lionel Messi

It was probably done in the heat of the moment but following Argentina’s loss to Chile in the Copa America Centenario, Messi announced that he was retiring from international football. About three months after his shock announcement, the four-time Ballon d’Or winner lined up alongside his Argentine teammates for their 2018 World Cup qualifiers.


Michael Phelps

With 22 Olympic medals – including 18 gold – to his name after the 2012 Olympics, Phelps thought he was ready to end his career at an all-time high as the most decorated athlete in the history of the Games. Except he wanted a better send-off and decided to partake in this year’s Olympics where he clinched his 23rd Olympic gold medal – with a little help from BMW


Lance Armstrong

Following an unprecedented seven Tour de France wins in a row, Armstrong announced his retirement from the sport in 2008 only to come back in 2009. His comeback wasn’t as spectacular as some of the others on this list. Especially when you consider that a year after he finally retired in 2011, he was stripped of his medals for using performance enhancing drugs.


Floyd Mayweather

Widely considered to be the greatest pound-for-pound boxer in the history of the sport, Mayweather has a penchant for coming out of retirement for big matches. Don’t blame him though. If you had someone offering you sums of upwards of nine figures, you’d happily jump out of retirement. Maybe we’ll soon have Mayweather take on McGregor.


Michael Jordan

After retiring in 1993, the man who drove kids to Nike stores jumped back onto the court to lead the Chicago Bulls to three more NBA championships and the greatest single-season record (72–10) in history. He walked away for a second time after clinching the 1998 NBA Finals title but found his way back onto the court before retiring one last time at the age of 40.