Pavel Nedved

Pavel Nedved

He was bought as a replacement for Zinedine Zidane, he turned out to be an upgrade.         

 

Pavel Nedved has been regarded as the greatest player to come out of Czech Republic, and his performance and stats strongly back it up. He was one of the most successful Czech player, winning a host of trophies in both his homeland and in Italy. He is also described as one of the best player of his generation. While we have Messi and Ronaldo now, the football world had Nedved and Zidane back in the early 2000s. He now serves as the Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors at Juventus.

 

Nedved began his football career in the country he was born and brought up in, Czechoslovakia. At the age of just 5, he began playing for his hometown club, Tatran Skalna. After learning the game and eveloping his skills here for 8 years, Nedved moved to Skoda Plzen after playing for RH Cheb for a year. Nedved continued his progress by moving yet again, this time on loan to the military owned Dukla Prague. He played in the lower division for the second team of Dukla Prague in his first year, but quickly established himself in the senior team at the age of 19. His military services ended in 1992, thus his loan deal also expired.

 


 

Nedved made his International debut in 1994.

 

Nedved had a torrid restart to his career after the loan deal. He was plucked by Sparta Prague , joining one of the biggest clubs in the country. But his first six starts saw him being sent off three times. After the horrendous beginning, Nedved composed himself and became one of the biggest stars of Sparta. His performances earned him the long awaited call up to the newly formed Czech National Team. He had played in the National team setup from the Under 15 level, progressing from every youth stage to finally make his International debut in 1994, at the age of 22.

 

He was called up for the 1996 Euros Team. He started all the group stage matches, losing the first game to Germany, before defeating the country he would spend the rest of his footballing career in, Italy. The Czechs drew against Russia to confirm their qualification, but Nedved received two yellow cards in the Group stage, thus earning a suspension for the Quarterfinals encounter against Portugal. Nedved put in a Man of the Match performance in the semifinals as the Czechs defeated France on penalties. In the finals, it was their group leaders Germany again. The Golden Goal ensured Germany won the Euros by a scoreline of 2-1 in extra time. His performances in the Euros attracted a lot of attention as rumours of a transfer to a European heavyweight started to gather pace. He had verbally agreed to join PSV Eindhoven before changing his mind and joining Lazio. It was a strange transfer.

 


 

Nedved joined Lazio from Sparta Prague on the back of his impressive outing in the Euros

 

After the legal troubles, Nedved officially ended his association with Prague and started his Lazio career on September 7, 1996. After a solid debut season with Lazio in which he scored 7 goals and cemented his place in the starting lineup, Nedved began the second one with a bang. He scored 4 goals in his first three matches as Lazio started the league season brightly. They went on a 24 games undefeated streak from November 1997 to April 1998, ultimately winning the Coppa Italia as well as reaching the finals of the UEFA Cup. Their streak was ended by Juventus, the eventual Champions in the league.

 

The 1998-99 season began with a trophy as Lazio defeated bitter rivals Juventus in the Supercopa Italiana, with Nedved scoring for Lazio. Lazio made history that season by winning the last ever UEFA Cup Winner’s Cup. Nedved was the last scorer of the tournament as he scored the winner for Lazio, helping them past Mallorca 2-1.

 

In the Summer of 2000, Nedved was to join up with his National teammates for the Euro 2000. In their first match against the Dutch, Nedved hit the crossbar as the Czechs failed to find the back of the net. A controversial penalty ensured Netherlands winning the match 1-0. Nedved earned a penalty against France in the second group match which was converted by Karel Poborsky, but the French were too strong for the Czech Republicans as they won 2-1. Despite winning the final group stage match against Denmark, the Czechs were knocked out of the Euros.

 

Lazio had to do all they could to keep hold of their star player and in 1999, he became one of the ten highest earner in Italian league. Lazio kicked off another season with a trophy, winning the UEFA Super Cup, defeating Manchester United 1-0. They also won the Supercopa Italiana to start the new season with two trophies. It was a fruitful season for Lazio as they won the Serie A as well as the Coppa Italia. Despite the success and the strong performances by Nedved, he was being pushed out by the club president Sergio Cragnotti.

 


 

Nedved joined chief rivals Juventus from Lazio

 

Despite interest from Chelsea and Manchester United, Juventus snapped up Pavel Nedved from their bitter rivals Lazio for a fee of €41 million. His performance were so impressive that the supporters never missed Zidane. He was the star who led Juventus to back to back Scudetto and the Champions League finals in 2003. Nedved had to sit out of the finals as he received the fateful yellow for fouling Steve McManaman in the semifinals against Real Madrid. Juventus ultimately lost the finals to domestic rivals Milan and had Nedved not been suspended for the finals, many had gunned for Juventus to win the Champions League, such was the impact of a 31 year old player. He won the Balloon D’Or as well as the European Footballer of the Year, pipping Paolo Maldini as well as Thierry Henry to the ultimate prize.

 


 

Nedved became the second Czech player to win the Balloon D’Or

 

Nedved also won the Golden Ball in his home country, which was his 5th in 7 years. He was the greatest player on the planet, playing in the best league in the world. Nedved was training for the Euro 2004 as they prepared to tackle Netherlands, Germany and Latvia. Their campaign got off to good start as they defeated Latvia 2-1. But their second match got off to a horrendous start as they were two goals down against the Oranje army within the first 19 minutes. But as the great saying says: “When the going gets tough, the tough get going.”

 

Nedved put in a Man of the Match display, orchestrating the play with everything good and offensive going through him. The Czechs scored an 88th minute winner to down the Netherlands 3-2 and secure their qualification for the Group stage. The Czechs impressed in a 3-0 demolition of Denmark in the last 16, but their progress was halted in the Quarterfinals by eventual Champions Greece. An extra time goal in the first half of the extra time meant that Greece progressed via the Silver Goal rule. Paul Nedved was one of the star performer of his country as he was named in the team of the Euros alongside fellow countrymates Petr Cech and Milan Baros.

 


 

Nedved was the best player of his generation, one who guided the newly formed Czech Republic.

 

Nedved announced his International retirement after the tournament as he wanted to focus on his club career with age not on his side. Nedved’s next two seasons were marred with controversy. Although he won back to back Scudettos, the Calciopoli match fixing scandal meant that the titles were revoked and Juventus were relegated to the Serie B in 2006. This led to mass exodus from Juventus as star players like Lilian Thuram and Fabio Cannavaro left the club. But Nedved, who was persuaded by the National coach Karel Bruckner to come out of retirement for the World Cup, reassured the Bianconeris of his commitment to the club. It was a failed World Cup for the Czechs as they bowed out at the Group stage, losing to Ghana and eventual winners Italy, after winning their Opener against USA.

 

Nedved retired for good this time, as he began his life as a Serie B player with Juventus. After a season in Serie B, Juventus returned to Serie A in 2007. Nedved played for two more years, before eventually retiring in 2009. He was again requested by the National team coach to come out of retirement for the 2008 Euros, but he didn’t budge this time. Nedved’s last league match was against his first Italian club, Lazio. He wore a special black and white strip of the Old lady as it had both Lazio and Juventus printed on it. He set up a goal in his last match as Juventus won it 2-0. This was the last time the “Czech fury” would play a Professional match for Club or Country. 

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