Legendary Chelsea goalkeeper Petr Cech has named ex-Manchester United and Everton striker Wayne Rooney as the toughest opponent he has faced during his career.
Now retired, Cech played 443 Premier League matches for the Blues and Arsenal, and claimed English titles with the Stamford Bridge side, whom he also helped to their Champions League success in 2012.
As one of the modern greats in his profession, Cech has faced many of the game’s greatest stars but the goalkeeper rated Rooney above the rest.
Asked by Chelsea's official website who his toughest rival as a goalkeeper was, the 37-year-old said: “Wayne Rooney. Every time we played against United I had to make sure I was aware every time he had the ball, because he was very unpredictable and very clever.
“He is a guy who can chase, who can fight, who can run, who is clever with his shot. He could score from the halfway line, he could try and chip you if you were too high. That was a challenge I enjoyed.”
He admitted that his time at Chelsea came to a somewhat acrimonious end with Thibault Courtois being recalled from Atletico Madrid, where he had spent three years on loan.
“I was not happy at all,” he confessed. “I could see in pre-season how hard I was working. There was nothing obvious suggesting I wouldn’t be ready to keep my spot.
“But in a football team you can only have one goalkeeper playing every week, and unfortunately that was the way it went. Thibaut was regarded as the future of the club with all his potential and quality. I understood the choice was made, even if I didn’t think it was my time.
“Leaving Chelsea was the hardest decision I had to make. Having played for this club for such a long time, and becoming a big part of the history of the club, I always thought I was going to finish my career at Chelsea, or maybe leave for the last couple of years.”
Meanwhile, he reflected on the standard of the league, which he reckons has become increasingly strong over the last decade.
“The league has got more competitive,” he said. “When I came in 2004, probably the top 12 teams were very strong, with strong squads, and then it would really depend on the years for the other eight teams. For them it was harder to bring in international players.
“It started changing around 2007, 2008 when the Premier League’s dominance started. You would suddenly see international players coming to every team, even promoted teams. The league became a big attraction. Teams started getting stronger and stronger, and the competition became harder and harder every year. That has continued to this day. It’s what makes the Premier League the best.”