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They Were Lost, But Returning Home Allowed These Footballers To Be Found

The Parable of the Prodigal Son who abandoned his roots and wasted his inheritance only to later return is one of the oldest tropes used in books, movies, and television. Guess what, soccer has had more than its fair share of prodigal sons, and here are two of the best examples in the world’s game. 

#1: Fernando Torres | Atletico Madrid

Football's prodigal sons

Photo: @Torres | Twitter

The best analogy for El Nino’s career would be that it was a roller coaster ride — not only for Torres but for his fans as well. 

Torres was hardly a teenager when he began rapidly ascending through the ranks of Atletico’s youth system. He quickly became one of the club’s crown jewels and he was treated as such by both fans and the local media.

He featured in Spain’s youth national teams and finally became a professional at the age of 17. In just his second season with the first team at Atletico, Torres earned his place in the starting eleven and appeared 36 times in Atletico’s campaign to win the Segunda Division, earning promotion to La Liga. 

With his flair and innate scoring ability, Torres became a household name in world football and stayed with the club until 2007. 

During his time away from the Vincente Calderon, however, life for Torres was far from what it had been. His time playing for Liverpool was extremely successful at first. 

Torres scored 24 goals in 33 Premier League matches for the Reds in his first season at Anfield. He followed that with two more successful seasons in Liverpool before his career took an unprecedented dive. 

Something had clearly changed. The man who was once touted as one of the best strikers in the world was obviously not the same. In 2010-11, his last season with Liverpool, he scored nine goals in all competitions. 

After that, he had a truly awful spell at Chelsea and a quick stint with Milan before finally returning home to Madrid to play for Atletico in 2014-15. 

It’s still too early to tell if Torres is, or will, ever be the player he once was. But there have been a few good signs since he returned to the Vicente Calderon. 

The 2015-16 season, his first full season with the club in almost ten years, marked the first time Torres scored more than ten league goals since his 2009-10 campaign with Liverpool. 


#2: Diego Maradona | Boca Juniors

Football's prodigal sons

Diego Maradona with Boca Juniors. Photo: @loucura_boquense | Twitter

Of all the athletes to ever play the beautiful game, only two can claim to have achieved a god-like status. Those two are Pele and Maradona. 

The Brazilian never really left his beloved Santos, but Maradona’s prodigal son story with Boca Juniors is the stuff of legend. 

He didn’t begin his career with Boca, but it was there that he became the legendary Maradona. 

As a matter of fact, he only played one season in La Bombonera before packing his bags to join Barcelona in 1982. But in that one year, Maradona’s 28 goals must’ve made enough of an impression for Boca fans to consider him a club legend.

He returned 13 years later, with the status of being one of the greatest footballers ever to live, as well as being the man to give Argentina their only World Cup title. 

Multitudes flocked to see him play, and although he was already physically far from the Maradona who’d conquered the world, the fans showed him the love only legends get. 

You can watch a bit of how he was treated in his farewell from La Bombonera here:

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