This season one of the greatest servants to Juventus has hung up his boots and retired from football – Pavel Nedved. The marauding midfielder has been one of the best players in Serie A for over a decade (bar the one season Juve spent in Serie B) and I thought I’d pay homage to the Czech maestro now his career is over.
Nedved rose to prominence as an exciting talent in the European Championships way back in 1996. He was, without doubt, the Czech Republic’s star player during that tournament where they managed to reach the final but were defeated by Germany. Prior to the Euro 96 tournament Nedved had agreed a move to Dutch side PSV but opted instead to move to Lazio, a decision that paid off for Nedved and indeed the world of football.
Nedved stayed at Lazio for five years before making a mega-money switch to Juve to replace French legend Zinedine Zidane, who moved to Real Madrid. At the time ‘Zizu’ was, without question, the best player in the world and filling his shoes (or boots) would be a massive task, but one which Nedved conquered with ease. His vision, passing ability and venomous striking prowess are matched by few and Nedved was quite rightly awarded the Ballon d’Or in 2003.
One of the things that truly endeared Pavel Nedved to me was the way he stuck by Juve when they were stripped of their Serie A status following the Calciopoli scandal. He was one of a group of players (Gianluigi Buffon, Alessandro Del Piero, David Trezeguet…) who stayed with the Bianconeri and helped them achieve promotion back to Serie A at the first time of asking.
Nedved has scored some simply amazing goals over the years, one which particularly sticks out in my mind is a long range volley he scored against Roma as Juve ran out 4-1 winners. His crosses from the left have caused havoc amongst even the best of defenders and there is no doubt that Juve will miss his presence next season. The Czech wizard is also a tough tackler and definitely not just a ‘flair player’ or ‘luxury asset’ (the kind of criticism that has been aimed at Cristiano Ronaldo, Ronaldinho etc) and has caused controversy on occasion with his aggressive nature. Indeed, he broke Portuguese playmaker Luis Figo’s leg in a recent challenge, which led to Nedved courting some negative publicity.
It is his aggressiveness, passion, skill and vision that has made me, and I’m sure many others, admire Nedved over the years. Unfortunately his final season was ended on March 10 in Juve’s Champions League tie with Chelsea as an injury forced him off in the first-half, ultimately this proved the end of his career. Despite the fact his illustrious career is now over it’s a safe football bet that people will remember Pavel Nedved for many years to come – especially at the Stadio Olimpico.