Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech is set to play his final game before retirement in the Europa League final against former employers Chelsea in Baku on 29 May.
It marks the end of a trophy-laden 20-year career for the 37-year-old, who moved to London in 2004 from French club Rennes.
At his best he was an imposing physical presence capable of dominating penalty areas and unnerving opposing forwards.
That was despite having to recover from a fractured skull in 2006, the legacy of which is the protective headguard he has worn ever since.
So what makes the man, who speaks five languages, loves ice hockey and has released a charity single with Queen drummer Roger Taylor, “one of the best in the business” in Premier League goalkeeping terms?
How the numbers stack up
A four-time winner of the Premier League’s Golden Glove for the most clean sheets, Cech was also included in the Professional Footballers’ Association team of the year on two occasions.
His 494 appearances for Chelsea are the most by any overseas player and he is ranked sixth on the club’s all-time appearance list.
Until his retirement from internationals in 2016, he had also featured in several major championships for the Czech Republic, winning a record 124 caps for his country in the process.
But numerous personal milestones also sit alongside team honours, particularly from his time at Chelsea where he won four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, a Europa League and the Champions League, with the 2012 final arguably his finest moment in blue.
After saving an extra-time penalty from Bayern Munich’s Arjen Robben he produced further heroics in the shootout win, saving from Ivica Olic and Bastian Schweinsteiger.
Cech moved across London to join Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal in 2015 after losing his place at Stamford Bridge, adding an FA Cup winners medal to an already impressive collection, while registering 40 clean sheets from his 110 Premier League appearances for the Gunners.
|Premier League clean sheets|
|Edwin van der Sar||132|
When it comes to clean sheets, the Czech goalkeeper’s record is unsurpassed in the Premier League era.
And he also holds the record for the most clean sheets in a single season during 2004-05, when he was instrumental as Chelsea claimed a first top-flight title for 50 years, conceding just 13 goals in his first campaign in England.
|Most clean sheets kept by a Premier League goalkeeper|
|Season||Player||Number of clean sheets|
|2008-09||Edwin van der Sar||21|
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Setting a new mark
When Cech arrived at Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2004, Chelsea was a club of spiralling ambitions 12 months into Roman Abromovich’s reign as owner.
With Jose Mourinho installed as manager, Cech – one of nine major signings – helped transform a challenging team into champions.
Tall, agile, strong and brave, Cech’s swift reactions and superb positioning cast him as a new type of goalkeeper with few weaknesses, according to former Chelsea and Scotland winger Pat Nevin.
“I think he changed a couple of things in goalkeeping like Peter Schmeichel and Neville Southall had done before,” said Nevin.
“Keepers were traditionally not as tall before, and the ones that were usually weren’t that agile – his combination of size and agility was a step change.
“He also changed how the team defended corners. He was the best in the business at a lot of things and would come and collect everything, making a huge difference to the team.
“When you are one against one with a goalkeeper, most strikers think they are odds on. But at Cech’s best you weren’t odds on. A lot of that was due to the technical side of goalkeeping which he worked so hard on.
“He knew he had to get to 14 yards out, he knew where that was and he knew where to specifically be at each angle having worked it out scientifically. He was an ice hockey goaltender as a kid so he brought a slightly different set of skills from that with the speed of his hand movement from saving a puck.”
His physical attributes and technical capabilities helped him establish a then Premier League record of going 1,025 minutes without conceding a goal in 2004-05.
And it also laid the foundation for him to reach 100 clean sheets in only 180 matches.
The best in the Premier League era?
Cech’s career was in doubt in October 2006 when he required surgery for a skull fracture after a collision with Reading’s Stephen Hunt.
The keeper was out for three months and has worn a protective headguard during games ever since.
Nevin credits him for “an utterly stupid desire to win at all costs”, and being one of the best two goalkeepers the Premier League has seen.
“You can’t save them all but his numbers on one-v-ones were brilliant The other thing to look at is errors. When you look back on his career in England it’s difficult to remember many – particularly in the big games.
“Most people would look at Peter Schmeichel and Petr Cech as being the best. Longevity plays big with me because you need to be good for a long time.
“For a core period he was the best in the world, and Schmeichel was as well. I can’t think of anyone else over 10-15 years that beats them.”