5 Eastern European players who dominated on the world stage
- Eastern Europe has produced some great players over the years; here are five of the best.
While a team from Eastern Europe has never won the World Cup, and none of their clubs have won the Champions League since Red Star Belgrade in 1990/91, the countries that formerly sat beyond the Iron Curtain have produced some of the greatest and most fondly remembered players in the history of world football.
Usually starring for the bigger Western European clubs – colossal sides like Real Madrid, Barcelona, Juventus and Milan – these players have won everything there is to win in the game, and many of them also showed their class on an international level too.
Here are five players from Eastern Europe who dominated on the world stage.
#5 Petr Cech
When it comes to the Premier League, players from Eastern Europe haven’t done quite as well as they have done elsewhere in Europe – perhaps a cultural issue, as England is very different from mainland Europe, let alone Eastern Europe. There have been a handful of hits though, and the best one is undoubtedly Czech goalkeeper Petr Cech.
Cech first rose to prominence in France with Rennes, but really shot to fame when he was signed by Claudio Ranieri for Chelsea in February 2004 for a relatively small fee of £7m. He was one of Ranieri’s final signings, and in fact never played under the ‘Tinker Man’, as the Italian had been fired and replaced by Jose Mourinho by the time Cech arrived in July. At that point he’d starred at Euro 2004 too, helping the Czech Republic to the semi-finals and finding himself named in UEFA’s official team of the tournament.
Under Mourinho, Cech was an instant success. He helped Chelsea to win back-to-back Premier League titles in 2004/05 and 2005/06, keeping a record 21 clean sheets in his first season as his team only let in a total of 15 goals. Despite fracturing his skull in late 2006 – causing him to wear a head guard to this day – he remained probably the most consistent goalkeeper in the league for the remainder of his time at Chelsea before moving to Arsenal in the summer of 2015.
And since he’s moved to Arsenal, he’s been just as good as ever – December 2015 saw him record a Premier League record 170th clean sheet, and in 2016/17 despite missing the final itself, he helped Arsenal to win the FA Cup – the fifth time he’d claimed the trophy. At 35 he probably still has a good few years left in him at the top, and he remains one of the league’s most reliable shot-stoppers.