Champions League 100 club: Petr Čech
The Czech goalkeeper is retiring this summer after a final season with Arsenal, having made his name in the UEFA Champions League during a mighty spell at Chelsea from 2004–15.
Sparta Praha: 12
Winner (Chelsea, 2012)
If you don’t remember him …
… you have a very short memory. Čech has not played in the UEFA Champions League since 2015/16, but – at 36 – remains a goalkeeping icon in what he has confirmed will be his last season in professional football. A striker-turned-custodian, he made his competitive debut for Chmel Blšany at 17, then swiftly moved on to Sparta Praha before joining Rennes.
Chelsea picked him up in summer 2004, José Mourinho fast-tracking the then 22-year-old into the first team. A serious head injury kept him out of action from October 2006 to January 2007 – he has worn protective headgear ever since – but did not stop him excelling. At Chelsea, he won four league titles, the 2011/12 UEFA Champions League and the following season’s UEFA Europa League.
How he made it to 100 appearances
Čech made his UEFA Champions League debut for Sparta in a 0-0 group stage draw against Bayern München on 18 September 2001, when he was still 19. It was the first of four consecutive clean sheets as he settled into life among the elite. Absent from the competition during his Rennes spell from 2002–04, he then became a regular at Chelsea after returning in a 3-0 win at Paris Saint-Germain in September 2004.
In typical fashion, the Plzen native produced another clean sheet on the night he became the 19th player to make 100 appearances in the UEFA Champions League, during a 2-0 win against Galatasaray on 18 March 2014. “There is no question about motivation,” he said. “As long as you hear the anthem prior to the game, you have that special feeling.” In 111 appearances overall, he conceded 103 goals and kept 49 clean sheets.
His best moments
Saving Arjen Robben’s spot kick in extra time and shoot-out attempts from Ivica Olić and Bastian Schweinsteiger as Chelsea beat Bayern in their own stadium to win the 2012 final. He told UEFA.com: “I have won many things in football, domestic cups and leagues, but that moment when Didier [Drogba] scored the last penalty and you know we’ve done it was an absolutely amazing feeling.”
- Helping Chelsea to reach their first UEFA Champions League final in 2008, as the Blues beat Liverpool in extra-time of the semi-final decider at Stamford Bridge. “I think if we go through we’ll win it,” he said before the second leg; he was wrong on that point – United beat his side on penalties in Moscow, though he saved from Cristiano Ronaldo in the shoot-out.
- Being Lionel Messi’s nemesis (for a while). The Argentinian could find no way past Čech in six encounters with the goalkeeper during his time at Chelsea; “Not many can say they’ve played … against Messi and he hasn’t found a way to get past,” he said. Messi, however, had his revenge, scoring both goals as Barcelona beat Arsenal 2-0 in London in February 2016 in what looks set to be Čech’s final UEFA Champions League outing.
What others said about him
“Chelsea fans will never forget what he did for the club. Great pro and a great bloke who gave his everything for the club to the end.”
Frank Lampard, former Chelsea midfielder
“I am honoured to have been the manager that, at such an early age, gave Petr a top Premier League No1 shirt. After that day, it is all about him. All about his numbers, his performances, his clean sheets, his titles and his professionalism.”
José Mourinho, former Chelsea manager
“I remember in training we [were] doing a small-sided game and the game couldn’t start because you wanted the balls out of your net. I asked why. You said because you hated any football in your goal: this is a mentality that only the best have. A GREAT man who I am lucky to call a friend.”
John Terry, former Chelsea captain
“Goalkeepers are more important than everybody thinks. When you look at his record it is absolutely fantastic, because considering the number of games he played and the number of games he had a clean sheet, that speaks for itself.”
Arsène Wenger, former Arsenal manager
“It’s true that defensively we [weren’t as strong as some clubs], but we couldn’t blame Petr since he was the best goalkeeper I ever coached. In his area, he was as good as Ronaldo was at the other end of the pitch.”
László Bölöni, former Rennes coach
“One of the best goalkeepers I have ever seen.”
Iker Casillas, Porto goalkeeper
“The best goalkeeper with his feet? Pepe Reina. In the air I’d say [Manuel] Neuer. With his hands: [Iker] Casillas. The best overall I’d say is Čech.”
Gianluigi Buffon, Paris goalkeeper
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