Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nedved's Knees May Yet Nobble Arsenal's Quest for Euro Glory

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Nedved's Knees May Yet Nobble Arsenal's Quest for Euro Glory

Article excerpt


JUST when they might have hoped Pavel Nedved would be ready to roar back to their rescue promising blood and thunder, Juventus' tifosi instead heard their Czech maestro late last week offer the most dispiriting verdict on their chances of overhauling Arsenal's two-goal advantage in the second leg of their European Cup quarterfinal in Turin tomorrow.

Echoing the sort of relentlessly glum assessments resounding around these parts since the vibrancy of Arsene Wenger's youthful crew so embarrassed the Old Lady last week, Nedved, pondering his return after suspension, had sighed: "To be honest, I'm not looking forward to the match since we'll have so many players missing. Maybe it's all over for us this year."

Blimey. By yesterday, it appeared that the spin doctors in black-andwhite had got at their man as Nedved's battle cry had suddenly been transformed into a Churchillian "we always fight to the end". A sentiment which seems a far cry from his seemingly gloomy mood of last Thursday, the one that prompted him to suggest "perhaps we need a psychologist" in his analysis of why Juve were striding away to another Serie A Scudetto yet stumbling along absentmindedly in Europe.

Only, in truth, the Bianconeri faithful don't need a psychologist to tell them what's required now. Forget empty words; they've always known their quiet hero Nedved as the quiet man - one who delivers in stirring deeds, not introspective laments - and they will just expect him, as so often over the past five years, to offer the combination of industry, invention, aggression and brilliance to lift a deflated outfit.

Yes, when they've been in trouble, they've always been able to count on Pavel's magic knees.

Imagine you were designing the perfect footballer, a composite of various luminaries. You might think of using, say, Michel Platini's brain, David Beckham's right foot, John Charles's head, Ronaldinho's snake hips, not to mention Maradona's princely left foot - and his godly right hand. The battered knees of the 33-year-old Nedved, however, might not instantly come to mind.

Yet the doctors in the Czech Republic and Italy who watched this allaction, mop-top develop into the best midfielder in Europe - it's only three years ago that he was the continent's footballer of the year - swear one of the secrets of his success stems from an ultra-rare physical trait.

It was the Czech team doctor Petr Krejci who first revealed during Euro 2004 in Portugal, where Nedved vied with Wayne Rooney as the most outstanding individual in the tournament, that the Juventus man was the only athlete he'd ever seen whose kneecap on each leg was split into three separate parts.

"Most people have a single piece of bone to make their kneecap. One per cent of people have two parts. …

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