Johan Vonlanthen, the youngest player to score at a UEFA European Championship, has returned to professional football with Grasshopper Club. The former Switzerland striker has signed a 12-month contract to turn out for the Zurich outfit, an agreement that includes an option for a further two years.
Vonlanthen – most famous for scoring in a 3-1 group stage loss to France at UEFA EURO 2004 aged 18 years and 137 days, eclipsing a record set by England forward Wayne Rooney four days earlier against the Swiss – announced his retirement in May 2012 after his deal with Colombia's Itagüí Fútbol Club had been terminated.
That goal against Les Bleus is one of seven the 27-year-old registered in 40 international appearances prior to hanging up his boots. He also featured in all three of co-hosts Switzerland's matches at UEFA EURO 2008.
Citing a desire for his new-born son to grow up in Colombia, the country of Vonlanthen's birth, as a factor in his decision to quit, he said at the time: "I'm feeling very good right now, I'm happy."
However, a period training with second-tier Swiss team FC Wohlen has rekindled his desire for the game, while the religious reasons which precluded him playing on certain days are thought to no longer be an issue.
Speaking about Grasshoppers' reasoning for offering Vonlanthen a chance to revive a hitherto itinerant career, sporting director Dragan Rapic said: "Johan is an extraordinary footballer. We are convinced he will help strengthen our attack."
Grasshoppers will be Vonlanthen's third Super League employer, the forward having started out with BSC Young Boys and scored in a 4-0 win against FC Sion in February 2002, three weeks after his 16th birthday.
Spells at PSV Eindhoven, Brescia Calcio, NAC Breda and FC Salzburg followed before he made a brief switch back to Switzerland with Grasshoppers' city rivals FC Zürich in 2009/10.
The identity of Vonlanthen's coach next season, however, is as yet unknown after Uli Forte left the 2013 Swiss Cup winners for Young Boys.
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