The Champions League final is being played today birthday boy Vladimir Smicer scored in one of the most memorable games in the history of the competition.
In 2005, he came on as a substitute in the first half for Liverpool and when his team were 3-0 down to AC Milan he probably thought his last game at the club was going to end in a terrible way but when Steven Gerrard pulled one back, Liverpool still needed something special and that is exactly what Smicer provided as he struck a great shot from 20 yards that flew into the bottom right hand corner. Liverpool went on to win the final on penalties and Smicer scored the last Liverpool spot kick and kissed the badge in front of the supporters moments before Jerzy Dudek saved Andriy Shevchenko’s penalty.
What makes it all even more remarkable is that he had been told by manager Rafael Benitez that he would not be getting a new contract at the end of the season, so it just shows what a model professional the Czech international was, which he has been his whole career. He first came to prominence in 1996 as he helped his first club Slavia Prague to the semi final of the UEFA Cup and his country to the final of Euro 1996. He joined Lens shortly after and was also an instant success there scoring 16 times in 91 appearances from a wide position and helping them their first ever French title in the 1997-98 season.
In 1999 he joined Liverpool for £4.2 million and made his debut against Sheffield Wednesday. He scored his first goal in a 3-2 victory over Watford, however it was a difficult season for him personally as initially struggled with the pace of the English game and a few injuries. But the next season he was much more settled down and was an important member of Liverpool’s treble winning season, as they secured the UEFA Cup, the FA Cup and the League Cup. He produced many memorable moments for Liverpool over the years and scored some unbelievable strikes, including a brilliant volley against Borussia Dortmund.
His old injuries started reoccurring though and he struggled to be a regular in the side under Benitez but he did make some key substitute appearances on the road to the Champions League final and as mentioned played a big part in the final. But in the summer of 2005 he left the club on a free transfer and returned to France.
He joined Bordeaux on a free transfer but only played 28 times in two seasons because of injuries and considered retiring but he continued playing and in 2007 he returned to Slavia Prague on a one year deal. The fans were delighted when he rejoined and they were even more pleased when he helped them lift their first Czech title for 12 years. He played his last football match on the 9th November 2009 and then a day later became the Czech sports manager of the national team.
The final word can go to Rafael Benitez who probably didn’t expect Smicer to be as influential as he was towards the end of his spell at Liverpool after deciding not to renew his contract. “He is a good professional and he’s determined to play as much as possible and he’ll do everything he can to help us in the last games.”