Any suggestions, hilarious and misguided as they may have been, that Petr Čech would somehow have a conflict of interest or would fail to give it his all against his former club in the Europa League final were quickly laid to rest on Wednesday night. Each excellent save, four in total, further underlined all that, as Čech turned back the clock in the final game of his legendary playing career.
Unfortunately for him, he could only stop half of Chelsea’s eight shots on target. His plan to bow out as a winner laid at his feet in ruins. The emotion of it all was almost too much to control in his post-match interview immediately afterwards with BT Sport.
“I’m proud not only of myself, obviously, I’m also proud of the way I played today, because when you play your last career game in a final there is a lot of pressure, obviously. There’s a lot of speculation and all the things about Chelsea, so I had to perform and I have to say I’ve done everything so I can look back and have no regrets about today.
“The fact we worked so hard over the whole year and we have nothing, I think it’s something that this group of players probably don’t deserve. Behind the scenes, the coaching staff, the people who come every day, the supporters, they can’t see behind the scenes how much work has been done this season. It’s easy to say, ‘OK, we finished empty handed, we have no cup, we lost this final 4-1’, but I can assure everyone at Arsenal that the work we have done during this season, next season this team will be stronger.”
Certainly a good bit of defiance there from the man who helped build the modern winning tradition at Chelsea. Once he’s official retired, it’s expected that he will in fact return to Chelsea, possibly to serve as the new sporting director, though at the moment, he needs a bit of time to reflect on it all. In the immediate aftermath of a crushing 4-1 defeat, that’s certainly understandable.
“This is the most disappointing thing. I wanted to lift the trophy and then sit down and think because up until the 30th June I am still an Arsenal player. Until that point, obviously I won’t decide on anything.”
We’ll be right here, waiting.