Seven months after fracturing his skull, Petr Cech is more determined than ever to achieve his biggest ambition of UEFA Champions League success.
Petr Čech was told his season might be over when he fractured his skull in October. Seven months on the Czech goalkeeper is confounding belief both on and off the pitch as Chelsea FC go for a unique quadruple of trophies.
With the English League Cup already in the bag, Chelsea are hoping to add the Premiership title and FA Cup over the coming weeks, though it is the UEFA Champions League Čech covets most. "I would love to lift this cup," he told uefa.com. "There's no doubt – it's the biggest ambition I have." As he launched himself into a brilliant diving save to keep out Steven Gerrard's dipping volley at Stamford Bridge in the semi-final first leg last week, that determination was clear to see.
The sight was jaw-dropping even for those who had not followed his rehabilitation after fracturing his skull in a collision with Reading FC's Stephen Hunt on 14 October. He spent the next ten days in hospital and was warned by doctors that a premature return could be fatal. Čech was nevertheless back at the Chelsea training ground within three days of returning home, eager to do everything in his power to make as swift a return as possible.
'I love this game'
The effort was rewarded. He made his comeback against Liverpool on 20 January, wearing a rugby-style headguard and though that match ended in a 2-0 defeat, the Blues have not lost since. "I'm enjoying every single minute I'm on the pitch," said the 24-year-old. "Football is a big part of my life and it was great for me to come back so early. I love this game and it would have been very difficult for me to watch from the stands for longer. I'm happy for every minute I can be on the pitch."
With three Premiership matches and the FA Cup final to come, as well as the second leg against Liverpool, he should have at the least five further games to savour before the end of the campaign. And Čech is hoping to guarantee 90 minutes more – at the UEFA Champions League final in Athens. "[It] is one of the best trophies you can possibly win. It's even more difficult than, for example, the [UEFA] European Championship because you've got teams involved who have the best players in the world." Whether he admits it or not, Čech is one of them.
This is an abridged version of an article that appears in this week's edition of the uefa.com Magazine. To read the feature in full, click here.