Arsenal’s veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech said Friday the Gunners’ showdown against his former club Chelsea in the Europa League final in Baku on May 29 was “a quirk of fate”.
With Cech in the squad, Arsenal beat Valencia 4-2 away on Thursday and 7-3 on aggregate in the semifinal to set up the final clash against the Blues who edged past Frankfurt on penalties.
The final will be the last professional match for the 36-year-old Cech, who spent eleven seasons with Chelsea before joining their arch-rivals in 2015 and who announced he would retire after this season.
“It was all set for an Arsenal versus Chelsea final for me, in the last game of my career, and destiny played it like this in the end,” Cech said in an interview for his Czech agency Sport Invest.
“It’s a quirk of fate really, and it fits my story.”
“The first competitive game I’ve played for Arsenal was against Chelsea, and so will be the last one.”
The Czech-born Cech joined the Blues in 2004 to win four Premier League titles (2005, 2006, 2010, 2015), the Champions League (2012), the Europa League (2013) and a host of other trophies.
On the way to the Europa League final, Arsenal beat Stade Rennes, also Cech’s former club which he had joined from Sparta Prague in 2002.
“I’m looking forward to the final — when you start playing football, you dream about playing the big finals, the Champions League or another European Cup,” said Cech.
“I’m looking forward to it even though I’ve already won both trophies,” added the keeper, who retired from international football after 14 years and a record 124 games for the Czech Republic following Euro 2016.
“The last dream was to win the cup with Arsenal and now I have the opportunity to make that happen,” said Cech, who holds the Premier League record with 202 clean sheets from 444 games.
Cech has only managed seven Premiership games this season, shaded by German ‘keeper Bernd Leno, but he has played ten in the Europa League.
“Three weeks are a long time, both teams have enough time to get ready for the final,” Cech said.
“I believe we’ll get ready and that we will succeed in the game because that’s the ultimate goal — to win.”