It’s difficult to imagine Petr Cech wearing any other club shirt than a Chelsea one. Understandable, as for the last 11 years it’s all we’ve known.
The Czech international has lifted every piece of domestic silverware during his time in west London, as well as a Europa League medal and of course, “Big Ears” (Champions League) in 2012.
I remember when he first arrived; a young, promising keeper who Jose Mourinho had high hopes for. I also remember feeling a little apprehensive at first. I wondered what would happen to Carlo Cudicini. Would he be the back-up? Would he leave?
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Cech vs Cudicini
In fact, I felt a little sorry for Carlo. When he signed for Chelsea in 1999 from Italian side Castel di Sangro he was an understudy to Dutchman Ed de Goey and it took a couple of years for him to make the breakthrough into the first team.
Once he had made that breakthrough, Carlo didn’t look back. He put in a string of fine performances, complete with acrobatic heroics and stunning reaction saves.
Deservedly, he was voted Chelsea’s Player of the Year by his teammates in 2001-2002 and won ITV’s Goalkeeper of the Year award a year later as Chelsea qualified for the Champions League following a final-day victory over Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. He had fought off competition (fairly comfortably!) from Mark Bosnich, Jürgen Macho and Marco Ambrosio.
And then Cech arrived and Carlo lost his place as the Blues’ number one. Of course, the rest is history.
Cech vs Courtois
Fast forward and a decade later the same situation has occurred. The long-awaited arrival of Thibaut Courtois following his successful three-year loan spell at Atlético Madrid put Petr Cech’s first-team place under threat. Jose Mourinho (again) had to make that difficult decision of who his number one goalkeeper was.
I travelled to Turf Moor for the first game of the season against Burnley. All afternoon right up until kick-off there were rumours over who was starting, Cech or Courtois. When the team news filtered through that Thibaut was starting, it felt like this was the changing of the guard, that Cech had been ousted.
He played more league games than I had originally expected; Courtois suffered a couple of minor injuries and fitness problems over the course of the season, and of course once the title was secured Cech started a couple of games. He also played in the Champions League and started the League Cup final at Wembley despite Courtois’ heroics in the two-legged semi-final versus Liverpool.
But for the majority of the season, Cech sat on the bench and watched as Courtois put in a series of world-class performances, further establishing himself on the world stage and showing everyone what a talent he is.
It is no surprise that Cech wants to move on. At the age of 33 he still has many years left ahead of him and having made only 15 appearances last season with Courtois ahead in the pecking order it is the right decision for him.
A new era
It’s hard knowing that he is signing for not only a title rival, but also a London rival in Arsenal, a club who Chelsea have of course had history with in the past.
But you cannot begrudge Petr. Roman Abramovich was very gracious in allowing him to sign for whichever club he wanted (Jose and the majority of Chelsea fans would prefer him to move to PSG) due to his loyal service over the years.
He has been called upon time and time again, saved Chelsea single-handedly at times and overcome a serious and life-threatening injury to remain one of the best goalkeepers of his generation. He’s broken records for clean sheets, won a handful of individual honours and made almost 500 appearances for Chelsea.
Now that his transfer to Arsenal has gone through, he will be eligible to make his debut in the Community Shield against Chelsea at Wembley on August 2nd. I am sure the reception he will receive from Chelsea fans will be fantastic and when he does return to Stamford Bridge with his new club he will receive the utmost respect from everyone at Chelsea Football Club.
I for one wish him all the best as his time at Chelsea comes to an end and he begins a new chapter in his career. I wish him luck at Arsenal (except for when he plays against us!) and I am sure he will forever hold memories of Chelsea in his heart.
Thank you for everything Big Pete, we’ll miss you at Chelsea.