ADRIAN DENNIS / AFP
A skull fracture in football was virtually unheard of until it happened to Petr Cech. The Czech Republic international plying his trade with Chelsea at the time, had a horrific collision with Reading midfielder Stephen Hunt in the opening moments of the match. This much-talked about incident made Hunt (in)famous as Cech had to be stretchered off the field and was diagnosed with a depressed skull fracture!
He underwent brain surgery and doctors ruled him out for the rest of the 2006-07 season. But, contrary to all expectations, Cech returned to competitive action within three months of the incident wearing a rugby-style protective headgear! He was back to his best after a few initial struggles and lived up to his reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. He admitted that he couldn’t remember his injury and perhaps it might have helped him recover better from it. Cech has had his share of injuries too, afterwards in his career, mainly to his shoulders, back and knees.
He was Chelsea’s number 1 for a decade and went down the pecking order only last season when Chelsea decided to end the loan deal of Thibault Courtois to Athletico Madrid. The Belgian became Mourinho’s first choice but made it clear that he wanted Cech in his team. Now 33, Cech still yearns for first team football and did well in his limited appearances last season to show that he hasn’t lost his edge.
And the unthinkable happened! Cech wanted to move despite Jose Mourinho’s reluctance to let him go and that too, to arch rivals Arsenal. He was sold to the Gunners for a reported fee of £10.9 million. Despite interest abroad, Cech chose Arsenal as he wouldn’t have to relocate his family to a new city.
Arsene Wenger is obviously a happy man and will be banking on the experience of Cech to bring stability to the Arsenal backline. Arsenal fans will be hoping he is the answer to the goalkeeping conundrum at the Emirates since Jens Lehmann’s departure in 2008. ‘Big Pete’, a nickname given to him by John Terry for his 6’5” frame, has proven to be strong character in the past and will be banking on it to take him through at Arsenal. He has been hailed as a great signing by for Wenger by experts while Chelsea fans would be hoping he doesn’t become a thorn in the flesh for the Blues.