Five-time world champion Van Barneveld makes comeback on PDC circuit in 2021
One year into his darts retirement, Raymond van Barneveld has revealed plans to make his PDC comeback next season.
The five-time world champion will appear at PDC Q-School in January, where he will try to earn a Tour Card for the PDC Pro Tour circuit. A Tour Card is required to participate in the Players Championship tournaments, which allow players to qualify for the majors.
In November 2018, Van Barneveld suddenly announced that 2019 was going to be his last year on the PDC circuit. The Dutchman then received an invitation for the Premier League Darts in 2019, so that he could play in front his home crowd at the Ahoy Rotterdam in a farewell double-header.
Unfortunately, the dream farewell proved to be a nightmare. Barney was thumped 7-1 by Daryl Gurney, confirming elimination from the Premier League before Judgement Night. In a dead rubber tie on March 28, he again succumbed 7-1, this time to compatriot Michael van Gerwen. Immediately following the game, an emotional Van Barneveld announced his retirement with immediate effect.
The 2007 PDC world champion repealed that decision a day later, stating his aim to bow out at the 2019/20 PDC World Darts Championship. Barney's participation wasn't a certainty, but he made good on his Alexandra Palace promise a week later by reaching a Players Championship final. He lost to Adrian Lewis, but World Championship qualification was within his grasp.
Later in his retirement year, another final spot at a World Series tournament and quarter-finals at the World Series of Darts Finals and the Players Championship Finals followed, as the Barney Army dared to dream of a big final outing.
Van Barneveld wanted one more shot in Alexandra Palace, the home of world darts since 2008; a year after he his PDC world title.
The World Championship draw pitted Van Barneveld against Darin Young in the first round. A win would have resulted in a clash with Jeffrey de Zwaan , who made his first steps on the professional circuit as a protégé of the 53-year-old from The Hague.
However, that symbolic match between the up-and-coming talent and the retiring darts legend did not materialise. Young silenced the Ally Pally crowd by defeating the five-time world champion 3-1 in sets, slamming the book shut on one of the most successful careers in darts history.
Farewell evening and return rumours
A more fitting farewell did come on February 8, in a sold out AFAS Live in Amsterdam, where thousands of Dutch fans said goodbye to the man who put darts on the map in the Netherlands.
Still, rumours of a Barney comeback soon sprang up. Firstly, after playing a historic online charity match against famed nemesis Phil Taylor, Van Barneveld didn't rule out the possibility of playing in some tournaments on the soft-tip circuit.
Later, a return to the PDC circuit was also discussed. Despite five world titles, the lure of top level darts continued to gnaw at the Dutchman. As speculation swirled, Barney poured cold water on a proposed return, as he had to consider whether he wanted to start at the bottom of the ladder.
Impossible to refuse
Eventually, those rumours began to crystallise into reality. Ben de Kok, owner of Bengi BV and manager of Jeffrey de Zwaan, presented Van Barneveld with a lucrative sponsorship contract.
The five-time world champion has agreed to sign up, with De Kok taking over from Jaco van Bodegom as his manager.
It now remains to be seen whether Q-School can be held as usual in the current climate surrounding COVID-19, and whether Van Barneveld can battle his way back into the winner's circle after seemingly having been put out to pasture for good.