Technical advisor, translator... and fourth-choice goalkeeper: Petr Cech is Chelsea's man of many talents

Matt Law
·5-min read
Petr Cech of Chelsea talks to Edouard Mendy of Chelsea during an individual training session - GETTY IMAGES
Petr Cech of Chelsea talks to Edouard Mendy of Chelsea during an individual training session - GETTY IMAGES

The big goalkeeper news of Tuesday night should have been that Edouard Mendy had been passed fit to make his Champions League debut, but the moment Chelsea’s 25-man Premier League squad list dropped a couple of hours before kick-off there was only one subject on everybody’s lips.

Petr Cech’s inclusion had been kept a secret from the rest of the Chelsea squad, presumably so it did not cause a distraction before their opening Champions League group game against Sevilla.

But it is safe to assume Cech’s phone and the various WhatsApp groups he is a member of exploded with activity as former team-mates and colleagues, friends, business partners, fans and journalists scrambled to find out whether or not a mistake had been made.

It quickly became clear that Cech’s name had not been included in error and Chelsea released a statement to confirm that the 38-year-old has taken up a position as a “non-contract player” which effectively means he will combine his job as technical and performance advisor with being fourth-choice goalkeeper for the rest of the season.

In reality, Cech, who watched the Sevilla game from his usual place in the directors’ box, will only play again if Chelsea are hit by a coronavirus crisis but he will now continue to train on a regular basis with Mendy, Kepa Arrizabalaga and Willy Caballero - all of whom he can speak to in their native languages.

Petr Cech of Chelsea talks to Edouard Mendy of Chelsea during an individual training session - GETTY IMAGES
Petr Cech of Chelsea talks to Edouard Mendy of Chelsea during an individual training session - GETTY IMAGES

Cech is certainly a man of many talents who has proved before that he can successfully multitask. He managed to teach himself fluent Spanish in a single pre-season in which he also played in a major tournament for the Czech Republic.

His current language count is said to stand at seven, having, over the years, added English, French, Spanish, Italian, Russian and German to his native Czech, and it was in February that his German came in particular use as he and head coach Frank Lampard made a secret trip to meet with Timo Werner and the striker’s agent and family.

Cech helped to act as an interpreter for Lampard and Werner, and the player’s entourage were so impressed with the pair that he ignored interest from Liverpool and Manchester United to sign for Chelsea.

His legendary status at Stamford Bridge was an obvious attraction to owner Roman Abramovich and director Marina Granovskaia in their decision to take Cech back to the club, following his playing retirement at the end of the 2018/19 season, but his ability to successfully turn his hand to a variety of skills was perhaps even more important.

As a player, Cech won every domestic and European club trophy with Chelsea and still holds the record for the most Premier League clean sheets, having kept 202 shut-outs across his career for Chelsea and Arsenal. It may well be a record that is never broken and the achievement was made all the more impressive by the fact he bounced back from the career-threatening injury that meant he played from 2006 in a specially-designed helmet.

Cech’s attention to detail as a player was never better illustrated than in the 2012 Champions League success, when his meticulous preparation for the possibility of penalties paid dividends, as he saved an extra-time spot kick from Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben before stopping two more in the shootout.

Together with learning languages while he was not training and winning silverware, Cech managed to combine his playing career with learning the drums and completing an MBA in business. Last May, he released a charity single with Queen drummer Roger Taylor and earlier this month his name appeared in the credits on the London Country album by Wills and the Willing.

Cech’s involvement was promoted on the band’s website, with a video of him drumming on the single ‘Iceberg’ and the promise of him being part of a live tour that had to be postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lampard has credited Cech with playing a key role in this summer’s transfer business that topped £200million and trusted his former team-mate to find the right goalkeeper, at the right price, to take over from Kepa.

It is deemed coincidental that, like Cech did in 2004, Mendy has joined Chelsea from Rennes and yet his connections with his former club can only have helped negotiations.

While moving into an office at Cobham since his return on the administrative side, Cech has displayed an eagerness to remain fit and physically active. It was in October last year that National Ice Hockey Division Two club Guildford Phoenix unveiled him as their new goalkeeper and it came as little surprise that Cech was named man of the match in his debut a few days later, in which he made two penalty shootout saves.

Guildford Phoenix goaltender Petr Cech during the NIHL2 match at Guildford Spectrum Leisure Complex - PA
Guildford Phoenix goaltender Petr Cech during the NIHL2 match at Guildford Spectrum Leisure Complex - PA

Cech’s return to Chelsea training over the summer was initially for him to keep fit and to try to help Kepa overcome his troubles while also working to provide the right environment for Mendy to join and quickly settle in.

But, as publicly referenced by Lampard, it quickly became apparent that Cech could still be playing at the highest level if he wanted to and when there was a spot left over in Chelsea’s 25-man squad it made perfect sense to give it the club’s man of many talents.

Matt Law's Chelsea briefing
Matt Law's Chelsea briefing