You would have seen from the many tributes pouring in for former Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech that the game is losing one of the greats. The 35-year-old recently announced that this season will be his last as a professional footballer.
Having started out in his native Czech Republic, where aged just 19, he set a new record of going 903 minutes without conceding a goal.
The young keeper soon attracted interest in Europe, signing for French side Rennes, where he played for two seasons. Cech was the stand out player in an under-performing side and caught the eye of one of Chelsea’s many scouts.
In 2004, he became one of Claudio Ranieri’s final signings.
The arrival of a new goalkeeper was difficult for me. Carlo Cudicini had become my favourite player. Being a vertically challenged goalkeeper myself, I loved Carlo’s acrobatic saves. It didn’t take long however, for Cech to prove that Jose Mourinho was right to replace him.
Cech’s first season in English football was record breaking.
1,063 minutes without conceding, a Premier League record.
24 clean sheets, a Premier League record.
15 goals conceded, a Premier League record.
That first season was a sign of things to come and set the precedent for Cech’s Chelsea career.
After 11 years between the sticks for Chelsea, Cech left as unquestionably the club’s and the Premier League’s greatest ever goalkeeper. Cech’s Chelsea’s trophy cabinet is as follows; Four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League cups, the Europa League and the Champions League.
He also holds the record for fewest games to get to 100 clean sheets (180 games), most clean sheets for Chelsea 220 and most clean sheets in Premier League 202. Most clean sheets in a season (24). Fewest goals conceded in a single season (15).
Cech also is the only goalkeeper to win the golden glove award for two different clubs.
For me, there’s no debate, Cech is the greatest.
During those first few seasons, he was rock solid. For 89 minutes, we would have nothing to do, but suddenly in stoppage time would pull off a world class save. He’s earned us countless points over the years.
And not to forget that memorable night in Munich.
Cech made a number of amazing saves to keep us in the game. Along with the penalty save in extra time from Arjen Robben and the two shoot out saves.
Petr Cech: European Champion.
One of Cech’s defining career moments, was his horror injury, suffered after a diabolical challenge from Reading’s Stephen Hunt. Cech suffered a fractured skull and there were fears at the time that he may not recover. However, Cech came back, with his now trademark scrum cap, and played just as well as before his injury.
What was bigger than his footballing ability, was his personality and leadership in the dressing room. Nearly all the tributes from Cech’s former teammates all followed the same message, proud to call you a friend.
When Ryan Mason suffered the same injury as Cech, he was one of the first to visit him in hospital and talk his family through his recovery.
That’s the mark of the man.
And when, in 2014, the time had come to replace Cech with Thibaut Courtois, Cech was graceful with the decision and stayed for 6 months to help Courtois settle in. As a thank you, Cech was granted a move to nearby Arsenal so he could keep his family in London.
One of Roman’s trusted players, it seems inevitable that Cech will return in some capacity to Stamford Bridge. And we will be all the better for it.
Congratulations on an incredible career and enjoy retirement.
We all live in a Petr Cech world, a Petr Cech world, a Petr Cech world.