Retired football legend Pavel Nedvěd, regarded as one of the most successful players to emerge from Czechia, celebrates his 50th birthday this Tuesday.
Nedved burst onto the world scene at Euro 96, when he was just 23 years old. Drawn in a group alongside Germany, Italy and Russia, the Czechs were tipped to struggle, but instead made it all the way to the final and even led against Wembley before falling to Germany in extra-time.
The player left Sparta Prague straight after the Euros, completing a seven-figure move to Lazio, and he developed into a Serie A star during his five years in Rome.
During his time at Lazio, Nedved helped the club end a 26-year title drought. The Scudetto arrived in the 1999-2000 campaign under Sven Goran Eriksson, with Nedved’s five goals including a vital equaliser in the derby against Roma as Eriksson’s men overturned a nine-point deficit to beat Juventus to the title.
Eriksson remained a fan of Nedved, even reportedly trying to coax him out of retirement to join Notts County nearly a decade later. And it was the Swedish manager, then in charge of the England national team, who urged Chelsea to move for him after Roman Abramovich’s takeover in 2003.
That was easier said than done, though. By that point, the midfielder was 30 and around his peak, and had continued to thrive without missing a beat after trading Lazio for Juventus as a replacement for Real Madrid-bound Zinedine Zidane.
Over his 19-year career, Nedvěd played 501 league matches at club level and made 91 appearances for the Czech Republic.
He received a number of awards, including the Medal of Merit from President Miloš Zeman. In 2003 he became only the second Czech to win the Ballon d’Or as European footballer of the year.
He joined Juve’s board of directors in 2010 and, five years later, took on a new role as vice president.
After leading by example on the pitch, he has learned about the commercial elements of the game as quickly as he picked up the skills needed to become a world-class midfielder, and was able to watch on as Juve reached their first Champions League final in more than a decade in 2015.