A recurring knee injury has forced former Liverpool FC midfielder Patrik Berger to retire at the age of 36, making him the last of the Czech Republic's EURO '96™ finalists to end their playing days.
A left-footed player of prodigious accuracy from range, Berger struck from the spot at Wembley more than 13 years ago to give his country the lead against Germany before Oliver Bierhoff scored twice to condemn them to defeat. Berger first caught the eye in 1990 as part of the Czechoslovakia side that won the UEFA European Under-16 Championship, before becoming a pivotal member of the senior Czech Republic squad three years later. He went on to score 18 times in 44 appearances for his country.
Berger began his career in the youth ranks at AC Sparta Praha, but made his breakthrough at rivals SK Slavia Praha where he spent four seasons before joining BV Borussia Dortmund. Berger helped Dortmund to the Bundesliga title in 1995/96 then joined Liverpool following EURO '96™. After seven seasons at Anfield he played for Portsmouth FC and Aston Villa FC before returning to his homeland to join Sparta. Having undergone surgery for the eighth time last summer, Berger knew his time had come. "My knee said no once and for all," he said.
Berger's full international career lasted only until 2001 when he opted to concentrate on Liverpool, for whom he made 148 league appearances and scored 28 goals, winning the 2001 UEFA Cup in the process. "I have the best memories of Liverpool," said Berger, whose former club and international team-mate Vladimír Šmicer was also forced to hang up his boots late last year. "We won six trophies and it was the pinnacle of my career." It was a career that never reached such heights post Anfield, with a series of short-lived spells in England bearing little fruit. Six goals in his first season with Sparta last year seemed to signal the perfect homecoming, but persistent injury restricted Berger to just two appearances this term, the last of which – against 1. FK Příbram on 8 August 2009 – proved to be the last of an impressive career.
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