"If you love football, you love Tomáš Rosický," Arsenal boss Arsène Wenger once said, with 'Little Mozart' confirming his retirement today in Prague at the age of 37.
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Tomáš Rosický has confirmed he is hanging up his boots at the age of 37, the former Arsenal and Dortmund midfielder having suffered one too many injuries after returning to his first club, Sparta Praha, in 2016. "It got harder and harder to prepare for games," he said at a press conference held at Sparta's training base. "My mind always wanted to play but my body refused, and recently my mind started to feel the same way, so I knew the decision was coming." UEFA.com celebrates one of the greatest – and unluckiest – midfielders of his age.
What they say
"He had all the football qualities to play the game we love to play here, and I would say Tomáš Rosický was the perfect player for Arsenal. I personally, like we all do here, love the player. We love the man as well, and his attitude, and his exceptional class and qualities ... for me it was a privilege to manage him."
Arsène Wenger, Arsenal manager
"He is one of the best-ever Czech players, and we have had so many great players. He is right among them. Every time you see him playing, you see what a brilliant player he is."
Petr Čech, Arsenal and Czech Republic goalkeeper
"Within a week of joining Arsenal, watching Tomáš train and having him play alongside me, I knew he was one of the most underrated players."
Mikel Arteta, former Arsenal team-mate
"My hero was always Tomáš Rosický. He was phenomenal. He had such a good eye for an opening and knew where his team-mates were, and he was so quick. I copied everything about him – right down to his sweatbands. He was so unlucky he had bad injuries at Arsenal because, otherwise, he would be one of the world's best players."
Marco Reus, Dortmund forward
International: 103 appearances, 21 goals
UEFA club competition: 96 appearances, 11 goals
Domestic competition: 410 appearances, 54 goals
Claims to fame
• Young player of the year in the Czech Republic in 1999, Rosický won titles in his first two seasons with Sparta, leaving for Dortmund in January 2001 after scoring twice in the 2000/01 UEFA Champions League group stage – including a goal at future employers Arsenal.
• Rejoined Sparta at the age of 35 in summer 2016, netting his ninth – and final – Czech league goal for the club in September 2017, in a 2-0 win against Karviná.
• Made his 96th and final UEFA club competition appearance in a 1-0 home loss to Crvena zvezda in UEFA Europa League qualifying in August 2017. Only five Czechs have played more European games: Petr Čech (127), Pavel Nedvěd (119), Tomáš Hübschmann (113), Marek Suchý (98) and Libor Sionko (97).
• Transferred for DM25m (450m Czech crowns), Rosický became the Bundesliga's most expensive foreign signing – at roughly €9m – and the most expensive Czech player ever. Bayern München were also apparently interested in the 20-year-old.
• Won the Bundesliga and reached the 2002 UEFA Cup final in his first full season with BVB (losing the latter game 3-2 to Feyenoord in Rotterdam). Was a losing German League Cup finalist in the following campaign.
• Voted Czech player of the year for 2001 and 2002.
• Courted by Atlético Madrid before moving to Arsenal in summer 2006. Was named Czech player of the year for a third and final time in 2006.
• Never won a championship with the Gunners, but got to two League Cup finals (in 2007 and 2011) and won the FA Cup in 2014. Arsenal lifted the FA Cup again in 2015, but Rosický was unavailable for the final.
• Made his 83rd and last appearance in the UEFA Champions League (including qualifying) against Monaco in February 2015. Čech (111) is the only Czech to have appeared more in Europe's top club competition.
• Injuries ensured he only made more than 20 Premier League outings in one of his ten seasons at Arsenal (his first); in fact, he didn't feature once in the 2008/09 and 2015/16 campaigns. He nonetheless became a Gunners fans' favourite.
• Is both the youngest (19 at UEFA EURO 2000) and the oldest (35 at UEFA EURO 2016) player to have represented the Czech Republic at a UEFA European Championship.
• Played at four EUROs in total as well as the 2006 FIFA World Cup. Took over from Pavel Nedvěd as national-team captain in 2006.
• A 2-2 draw with Croatia at UEFA EURO 2016 marked his final international game. He is the third-most-capped Czech player after Čech (124) and Karel Poborský (118). "I am glad I managed over 100 matches for my country," he said today. "I always liked coming home to play. It is hard to find one moment I liked most, but there is one regret: I think we should have won UEFA EURO 2004 in Portugal."
What you might not know
• His father and brother, both named Jiří Rosický, were also on the books at Sparta. His mother Eva was a top table tennis player.
• He was nicknamed 'The Little Mozart' during his Dortmund day for his ability to orchestrate play.
• During his long periods on the sidelines, Rosický perfected his skills as a guitar player, and joined popular Czech rock band Tři sestry (Three Sisters) on stage to demonstrate his talent in 2010.
What he says
"My career was all beautiful, despite all my injury problems. I experienced some of the fabulous moments that football creates, and also some cruel ones. I never played for money and fame. I have always been a boy who loved the game. It brought me fulfilment and a lot of joy."
"What advice would I give to young players? It is worth it. It may look simple but it is not for everyone. You have to sacrifice a lot and put in a lot of effort, and not everybody is willing to do that – but you should go for it. Football is a beautiful game that will open a lot of doors; you will meet a lot of fantastic people, you will see the world. It is definitely worth it. Go for it."
"Sparta were my team. They still are my team in the Czech Republic. It was the most important step in my career. When I was 17, they gave me the first opportunity to play in the league. When I was 18 I played in the Champions League, and when I was 19 I was in the national team."
"That [Borussia Dortmund] had to pay so much for me is not my problem. As for the pressure, there is always pressure in the Bundesliga. I try to cope with it. Of course, I'm excited when I come on to the pitch. That tension is always there, and the fans in the Westfalenstadion are unique."
"I always wanted to come [to Arsenal] because I always liked the type of football that Arsenal and Arsène Wenger wanted to play. When I was at Dortmund I was looking at it, thinking I would like to play for Arsenal because of the philosophy of the club."
„If you love football, you love Rosický.“ pic.twitter.com/85jeKKLxAd— AC Sparta Prague (@ACSparta_EN) December 20, 2017