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Petr Cech – Farewell to a Legend

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Petr Cech will have his last dance in football tonight, as he retires from the professional game after the Europa League final against his former club Chelsea.

The Czech goalkeeping legend couldn’t even imagine a better end of his fantastic career, as he is about to say goodbye to the beautiful game in a European final, against the club where he spent his best years as a professional, Chelsea FC.

Born on 20 May 1982 in Plzen, Petr Cech started out as a striker at the youth academy of his hometown club, Viktoria Plzen. He was later moved to the goalkeeper position and made his professional debut in October 1999 representing the Czech First League team Chmel Blsany.

Cech moved to Sparta Prague during the summer 2001 and set a new record for the longest time elapsed without conceding a goal in the Czech professional league a few months later, with 855 minutes without being beaten.

In the summer of 2002, he won the UEFA European Under-21 Championship with the Czech Republic, beating France in the final after a penalty shootout. Cech was his country’s hero in the shootout saving two penalties from the French players. He also won the Golden Player award, being named the best player of the competition.

After his impressive performance in the U-21 Euro, the Czech moved to France, signing for Rennes, where he spent two years of his career.

He established his status as one of the most talented goalkeepers in Europe during his stay in Ligue 1. The 21-year old at the time was named as the Best Goalkeeper of French League in 2004 – enough to convince Roman Abramovic to bring him to Chelsea in the following summer.

In his first year in England, Cech set a new Premier League record of 1,025 minutes without letting in a goal, though his record has since been broken by Manchester United’s Edwin van der Sar. He won the Premier League Golden Glove award in his debut season in English football and was also named as the Best European Goalkeeper for 2005.

Cech won back-to-back Premier League titles in his first two years at Stamford Brigde and achieved a Cup double (FA Cup and League Cup) in 2006-07.

The Czech suffered a severe head injury in a game against Reading in October 2006, colliding with Stephen Hunt inside Chelsea’s penalty area within the first minute of the game. He missed the next three months and returned to the football grounds in January 2007 wearing a rugby style headguard – an ‘accessory’ Cech continued to wear for the rest of his career.

He reached his first Champions League final in 2008 and even saved Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty in the shootout, but it wasn’t enough for Chelsea to win ther first-ever European title.

It worked for the Blues four years later though, as they managed to beat Bayern Munich at the Allianz Arena in the 2012 Champions League final, with Petr Cech saving two crucial penalties – one from Arjen Robben in the extra-time and one from Ivica Olic in the shootout.

The Czech goalkeeper left Chelsea in 2015, signing for their London rivals – Arsenal FC. He won a total of four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, as well as the Europa League in 2013 in his 11-year stay at Stamford Brigde.

At Arsenal, Cech won another FA Cup in 2017 and reached another League Cup final in the next campaign where they lost 3-0 to Manchester City. He will play his third and last big final with the Gunners tonight, as they face Chelsea for the Europa League trophy at the Olympic Stadium in Bacu.

Cech will retire from professional football at the end of the season and is expected to return to Stamford Bridge this summer in new sporting director role at Chelsea FC.