Petr Cech has spent the summer coaching Prague's next generation of footballers at the academy that bears his name, but today he goes back to the day job. Carlo Ancelotti's Chelsea regime starts this morning and his goalkeeper finds himself in the unusual position of having to defend his reputation against allegations that he is a troublemaker.
A humid Prague afternoon surrounded by the 160 young footballers who have won a sought-after place at the Petr Cech Academy feels a long way from the recriminations of former Chelsea managers but, as is the way with this club, they are unavoidable. In one of his first interviews since his sacking in February, Luiz Felipe Scolari last week accused Cech of being one of three players – Michael Ballack and Didier Drogba being the others– who contributed to him being forced out.
Cech is eager to set the record straight, but first he is contemplating meeting the fifth Chelsea manager he has played under in the last two years. "If you look at Ancelotti's record you would say that we cannot make any mistake appointing this manager," Cech says. "For me, he is the right man for the club. Hopefully he will be successful and he will stay for at least seven years which would be good."
Ancelotti is presented to the media this morning, showcasing the English he has been studying intensively over the last month and, come this lunchtime, he will be addressing his squad for the first time. Like his predecessors he will contemplate a group of battle-hardened internationals, a team that has reached the Champions League semi-finals in five of the last six years and a club that is now being out-spent by Manchester City.
This time, Cech says, Chelsea need their new manager to be a success. "It's always better if you have one manager for a long period because then you can build the team," he said. "In football you always have two or three changes in the team every summer and it changes the atmosphere and the life among the group. So the ideal scenario is to have the same manager for five or six years but in football it is hard to get that."
Last summer's appointment was Scolari, another man who looked like he fitted the bill perfectly, but within eight months he was dismissed by Roman Abramovich. Last week Scolari accused Cech of becoming "furious" and treating him "coldly" in a row over the goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon. The Brazilian claimed that Cech wanted the French coach as his personal trainer and disagreed when he was challenged over it.
There is no doubt that Lollichon and Cech are close. They were at the French club Rennes together before Cech left for Chelsea in 2004 and Lollichon has come to Prague to help out at the academy. But Cech denies that he told Scolari he wanted to work alone with Lollichon. He admits to a disagreement with Scolari over training but not over Lollichon.
"I'm disappointed with [Scolari] because never in my life have I had a personal goalkeeping coach," he says. "I've never heard of that happening anywhere. I was really saddened because Christophe was the goalkeeping coach for the whole first team and even the academy boys who trained with us occasionally. He treated me the same way as he did [Henrique] Hilario or Rhys Taylor. We always started the training together and then we trained with the team. What was said was not true."
Cech is bemused as to why Scolari has made the allegations. "I always had a huge respect for Mr Scolari and then suddenly in the middle of the season we had a change in the way we trained the goalkeepers," he says.
"It changed the way we could work and I was surprised because the way we had been training was getting results, keeping clean sheets and we had the best defensive record in the league. Then suddenly we had a complete change which I couldn't understand."
The disagreement was a change to the schedule of when the goalkeepers would train alone and when they would join the main group. "It was a change in terms of our preparation," Cech says. "The only thing I did was ask why. That was the only time I went to see him and suddenly I was identified as someone who made trouble which is not right. In the end, he was the manager and you have to respect what the manager wants. I was not happy and I told him but you play for the team and not yourself so I respected him and adapted. We tried to do it the way he wished."
When Cech arrived from Rennes Chelsea were one of the most powerful movers in the European transfer market – now they are not even the most powerful in England.
The imminent acquisition of Yuri Zhirkov from CSKA Moscow for £18m and Daniel Sturridge and Ross Turnbull on free transfers does not compare with City's buying power, not to mention their pursuit of John Terry. Does that worry Cech? "Just buying will never bring you success unless you know exactly where you want to go," he says. "At the moment it looks like City knows what their plan is. They try to buy defenders, they have bought strikers and midfielders. I would say that they have a good idea of what they want to achieve.
"The second example is Real Madrid, they have spent a lot of money on strikers and midfielders yet their biggest problem last season was in defence. You cannot always win 5-3. If you spend a lot you need to get the right players in the right positions, not just because you want to show you have the money. The most important thing is the vision."
Cech says that Ancelotti needs time to assess the squad before he buys: "There will be time to sign players." he says, and he is not worried about the club's position. "We always have that spirit," he says. "Even in difficult periods we always bounce back and this will be a big help for the new manager because the team is strong."
The man himself looks out over the pitches of Sparta Prague's training ground now full with the young members of the Petr Cech Academy and says that he feels he is in the form of his life.
In October it will be three years since Stephen Hunt's knee fractured his skull in a Premier League game against Reading but Cech believes he is better than ever.
His doctors have told him that the headguard will have to stay on for another season but the philosophy remains the same.
"My target is to get the ball. If I have to put my head in then I have to put my head in. If something is going to happen then it's going to happen. I remember the first time [after the injury] I was going for the ball and I wanted to clear it but I couldn't kick it. It was not good, but I knew the only way I was going to get the ball was to put my head in and I got the ball. I would say it even made me stronger because when you have been through a difficult period you know how to recover."
The Petr Cech football academy: www.skola.petr-cech.cz
Golden Gloves: Life and times of Petr Cech
Petr Cech, born 20 May 1982 in Plzen, Czechoslovakia, made his professional debut aged 17 for Chmel Blsany. After 27 appearances he signed for Sparta Prague for £600,000 in 2001.
* Set a national record in his first season at Prague, playing 855 minutes without conceding a goal.
*After just one season at Prague he joined Rennes for £3.75m in 2002, and was then signed by Claudio Ranieri for Chelsea in 2004 for £7.5m.
* Set Premier League record on 5 March 2004, playing 1,025 minutes without conceding.
* Awarded Golden Gloves for keeping a record of 25 clean sheets in 2004-05.
* Has made 67 appearances for the Czech Republic.Reuse content