Not a day goes by without some non-deserving ‘great’ having their career analysed and lauded over, and let’s be honest, there have been some truly abject players somehow managing to get to the highest level in football. However, there have been some truly wonderfully talented players, and Czech maestro Pavel Nedved is one such man.
Casting the mind back across the ages, there aren’t too many great Czech footballers. Nedved himself, Josef Masopust, Petr Cech and, well that’s where the list gets a bit short…Milan Baros? You get the picture, there aren’t that many, reinforced by the fact Cech, a goalkeeper, recently won the Czech player of the year award for the 10th time.
But Nedved was a breed apart. Not your average good player, the midfielder is identifiable as a true legend. So much so that he bagged himself a ‘legend card’ in FIFA Ultimate team, although Landon Donovan got one too, so what does that tell you?
Nedved’s career really blew up upon joining Lazio, following stints with Dukla Prague and Sparta Prague, in which he scored 26 goals in just under 120 appearances for the two clubs.
For the Italian side, Nedved was a prolific trophy winner. He helped his team win a Serie A title, two Coppa Italia’s, a Supercoppa Italiana, a UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup and a UEFA Super Cup. Not bad then.
More impressive was his ability to ignite his teammates with his busy displays and clever running. Seen as a complete midfielder, Nedved was predominately used on the left-hand side which allowed him to utilise his superb left foot. He was also more than capable of cutting in and using his right foot to shoot too as he was a brilliantly gifted two-footed player, making him viciously difficult to mark.
His ability with the ball at his feet and vision also meant he was capable of playing across the midfield, utilised as a central player or an attacking-midfielder, Nedved was able to thrive in tight situations, making the most of his quick thinking and even quicker feet.
Finally, and perhaps most memorably, people point to his ability to strike the ball so cleanly, with his volleying the stuff of legend:
— JuventusFC (@juventusfc) March 21, 2017
One of the lasting memories Nedved imparted upon Lazio was the winning goal in the 1999 UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup Final against Mallorca. Lazio won the game 2-1, with Nedved scoring the final goal ever to be scored in the now debunked tournament.
However, as good a player as he was, that did not exempt him from getting sold by the club he made his name at. Perhaps in the hall of fame for bad ideas, the one which thought it was a great plan to sell Nedved to Juventus is surely right up there.
Following his transfer of around €40million in 2001, the Czech international began to really assert himself on the European scene, and he had to as the man he replaced at Juventus was none other than Zinedine Zidane.
🏆: Serie A & Super Copa Italiana
•Serie A POTY / Foreign POTY
•UEFA Midfielder of the Year pic.twitter.com/gyA1kWrONz
— Cameron Maher (@CamMaher95) December 25, 2016
Nedved was part of the Scudetto winning sides of 2001/02 and 2002/03, while he played a huge role in leading Juventus to a Champions League final with AC Milan in 2003, however, he was forced to miss this game following a glut of yellow cards, something he never eradicated from his game.
In fact, it wasn’t just yellow cards and silky play that the midfielder was renowned for. He continually courted controversy for his strong tackling, this coming to a head with the Czech player breaking the fibula of Inter Milan’s Luis Figo in 2007.
However, Nedved will forever be remembered as a man that was superbly gifted, and wonderfully entertaining to watch. In fact, he was rewarded for his achievements in 2003 as he was named as the European Footballer of the Year, ahead of the likes of Theirry Henry. He was the first Czech to do this since Masopust.
That finish though:
— JuventusFC (@juventusfcen) September 15, 2016
For his nation, though, he was unable to really ignite a team that were not ever really good enough for him. There was of course the exception of Euro 2004 in which all hell broke loose. Following a string of fine performances, the Czech’s made it to the semi-final, before losing to eventual winners Greece, with the footballing world still scratching their heads over how Greece managed to win that one.
Nedved, along with Cech and Baros were all named in the team of the tournament, but this was about as good as it got for Nedved on the international stage, with the midfielder persuaded out of retirement for the World Cup in 2006, but really, he should have stayed away as the Czech’s fell at the group-stage.
With his international difficulties to one side, Nedved still remains one of the finest players to have graced the game. In fact, no words are needed to end this one, just watch:
Pavel Nedvěd scores a beauty vs Mallorca in the last ever UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup final, 1999. pic.twitter.com/FMGJsfqgDS
— 90s Football (@90sfootball) March 20, 2017