Pavel Nedved was just a teenager when Czechoslovakia broke up but went on to become the poster boy for the newly formed Czech Republic. He was synonymous with Serie A in the 90s and 2000s playing the majority of his career in Italy. His career was highlighted by winning the European footballer of the year award in 2003.
Name: Pavel Nedved
Date of Birth: 30th August 1972
International Caps/Goals: 91/18
Nedved was born in Cheb, a town in what was then Czechoslovakia, and began his career at Dulka Prague where he played for just 1 season before being signed by Sparta Prague. His time with Sparta was very successful as he was a key part of a side that won the League title in each of his four seasons with the club. He then joined up with the Czech Republic for a trip to Euro 96. This was the first time the Czech Republic had ever been represented at a footballing tournament, having only split from Slovakia in 1993, but they made quite the impact.
Nedved was a key member of a side that included future Premier League players Karel Poborsky, Patrick Berger and Vladimir Smicer; a team that would go on to reach the final. He scored his 1st international goal in the tournament, the 1st in a 2-1 win over Italy and was subject to a lot of attention. Like many of the Czech stars (most notably Poborsky) Nedved secured a move to a major European league on the back of the performances at the European championships. Lazio brought the Czech star to Serie A.
In truth it was Italy where his name was made. Lazio had an incredible amount of money to throw around in the late 90s/early 2000s and with players like Alessandro Nesta, Christian Vieri, Marcelo Salas and Hernan Crespo at the club it is fair to say that Nedved slotted into a side who had a few decent players. The 1997-98 Coppa Italia was the first piece of silverware that the Czech won in Italy. That led to Lazio’s involvement in the last ever Cup Winners Cup competition and they came away with the trophy with a 2-1 over Real Mallorca, with Nedved getting the winner late on.
In 2001 Lazio were hit by some financial trouble and were forced to offload many of their star players and Nedved was one of those. Juventus, fresh from losing Zinedine Zidane to Real Madrid, spent 41 million euros on the midfielder. Although not a direct replacement for Zidane it has to be said that Nedved was relied upon to shoulder quite a sizeable portion of the work Zidane had done while in Turin. To his credit he stepped up, helping Juventus reach the 2003 Champions League final (although Nedved, himself, did not play due to a suspension) in a season that saw him win the award for European footballer of the year, notably beating Zidane to the accolade.
As well as reaching the Champions league final Juventus, with Nedved in the side, managed to win 4 league titles; although the 2005-6 title was revoked as a result of the Calciopoli Scandal. It was after that scandal that Nedved showed his loyalty to the club, Juventus were relegated to Serie B but many of the club’s big name players decided to stay. This led to the somewhat unfair sight of a team full of Serie A winners and some of the best players in the world playing the likes of Arezzo and Crotene. As you would expect Juventus were able to overcome starting on -9 points and won the league at a canter. Just for your enjoyment here is a quick highlights video of Del Piero and Nedved ripping up the league.
Following a return to Serie A Nedved continued as a solid, dependable option in the Juventus midfield. He played his final professional game against his former club, Lazio, and when he was substituted in the 90th minute he received a standing ovation from the entire stadium.
Almost inarguably the greatest player to come out of the Czech Republic, Nedved played his entire career in a dynamic and hardworking style and will slot in to the left wing of the Player Profile XI. It’ll take a hell of a player to displace him.