Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Relaxed Poborsky Keen to Check Up on His Old Friend Veron

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Relaxed Poborsky Keen to Check Up on His Old Friend Veron

Article excerpt


KAREL POBORSKY reacted with the defiance of the underdog today as the extraordinary fire power of Roman Abramovich's new Chelsea rolled into Prague on Champions League business.

From Moscow to Milan, European football eagerly awaits a demonstration of Champions League potential from the Russian billionaire and his [pounds sterling]100million-plus investment - and Poborsky is no different to the rest of us.

You may remember him as the unkempt winger with the Seventies hairstyle signed by Alex Ferguson to replace Andrei Kanchelskis in 1996.

He had thrilled us with the quality of his performances for the Czech Republic in the 1996 European Championship, prompting Ferguson to pay Slavia Prague [pounds sterling]3.5m for him. But he just didn't fit in at Old Trafford and 18 month later was sold to Benfica for [pounds sterling]3m.

"I was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time," he recalled as he prepared to lead Sparta Prague against Chelsea in tonight's Champions League clash here. "I believed that a dream had come true when I joined United but in the end I was desperate to leave. I had nothing against Alex Ferguson, but it was as if I'd lost my soul at Old Trafford."

Born in Trebon, in thickly forested Bohemia, he grew up in the woods and valued a quieter life than the one offered by the celebrities in the United dressing room. "At Old Trafford you had to accept that you were part of a great club and were expected to mix and talk to people," he said.

"That wasn't my style. I wanted a simpler life. I'd rather earn less and be my own person."

Now 31, his tour of Europe has taken him to Benfica in Portugal, Lazio in Italy and now Sparta, where he's team captain and idolised by the locals.

Bidding for their ninth Czech title in 11 years, their European experience is limited. Last year they went out of the Champions League in the qualifying stage to Genk before being knocked out of the UEFA Cup by unfancied Turkish team Denizlispor. …

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