Heroes In Black and White: Pavel Nedved
Continuing the series of Bianconeri legends, we look back on the career of the recently retired Pavel Nedved.
Best known for his ferocious shooting and scoring countless goals with both feet, he also offered superb playmaking ability. Allied to this flair and creativity was a superb amount of effort and tenaciousness. It is this that marked Nedved as one of the best players of his generation.
He was a complete footballer. So often skilful wide-men are guilty of not tracking back, but Nedved’s workmanlike attitude made him an excellent team player, suited to a variety tactics and positions. Able to turn a game on its head with a moment of brilliance at one end of the pitch, in his prime he would rarely be caught out as the defensive culprit at the other end.
Nedved’s career began in obscurity at Dulka Prague before moving to cross-town rivals Sparta. Here he made almost 100 appearances, still relatively unknown until his 4th minute goal for the Czech Republic against Italy at Anfield during Euro 96. This goal, and his country's run to the final, earned him a move to Lazio.
His time in Rome coincided with one of the most successful spells in the club's history, culminating in only their second ever Scudetto victory in 2000. Nedved also helped Lazio win two Italian Cups, two Italian Super Cups, a UEFA Super Cup, and the last ever UEFA Cup Winners' Cup. Nedved also scored that competition's last ever goal.
The summer of 2001 saw the midfielder move to Juventus as part of a dramatic rebuilding of the Bianconeri squad. The new-look Juve stormed to success, winning back-to-back league titles and Italian Super Cups.
In his second season, Nedved dominated the team, driving them on from his wide left position, being a major influence in Europe. Nedved scored a wonderful goal in the Champions League semifinal against Real Madrid. This victory came at the ultimate price for Nedved, suspended for the final for accumulating too many yellow cards.
Juventus fell flat in the final, losing on penalties to Milan, with many fans and pundits blaming the lack-lustre performance on the absence of Nedved.
His contribution was rewarded as he received the 2003 Balon D’Or, as well as the Serie A Footballer and Foreign Footballer of the Year awards, fitting recognition for a truly remarkable season.
Two more Scudetti followed, sadly revoked as part of Juventus’s Calciopoli punishment. With relegation from Serie A, the future of Pavel Nedved as a Juventus player was heavily discussed. He dispelled those rumors by vowing to return to Juventus in order to return the club to Serie A, showing great devotion to the club he loved.
Alongside Del Piero, Buffon and Trezeguet, Juventus and Nedved triumphed, winning the Serie B title.
On 26 February 2009, Nedvěd announced that he would retire at the end of the season, his last game coming fittingly against Lazio. Nedved was named captain, and the fans showed their appreciation of a club legend at the final whistle, with the whole squad donning number 11 shirts to pay tribute to the Czech fury.
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