I’ll have to think through my further involvement with the national team after the EURO
Petr got on the standard connection between London and Prague to pick up what had in the meanwhile become a very standard trophy for him; for the eighth time in his career, he won the Czech Footballer of the Year award. During the venue which was otherwise bereft of surprises, one statement Petr in an interview for Czech newspaper MF Dnes made stood out: “After the EURO I’m going to have to think through if I should play for the Czech national team further.”
How long has this been on your mind?
I’m turning thirty-four and it’s time for me to consider it. The other day I thought: Isn’t it time after fourteen years on the national team to think about brining this chapter of your life to a close?
You, a patriot, who would play for the team injured, if you could?
Though it’s too early to say, I’m counting on the possibility. The less I have to travel around and play for the national team, the higher the probability that I’ll be able to retain my focus at Arsenal. After all, I’m not getting any younger.
Do you feel like you’re getting old?
I feel on top for physically, but it’s been the same things all over again since 2002. Way too much travelling around and barely any time for rest. You eventually reach a point in your career when it becomes time to come to a halt and choose a new direction. That point will come after the EURO.
What might influence your decision?
The way I feel in general, but that’ll have nothing to do with how we do in the EURO.
Athletes usually like to 'leave on top'.
Our EURO group is incredibly difficult so that’s not a condition for me. Regardless of the outcome in France, I’m going to have to sit down during the holidays and make up my mind.
Are there any alternatives?
Continue. Defer. Stop altogether. I’ll decide before the World Cup qualifications.
If you do decide to stop, everyone’s going to try to convince you to keep going.
Which is why I need to ensure my decision is solid.
You have now participated in 118 national team games, which is a record. On top of that, you’ve become Footballer of the Year for the eighth time. What does that mean to you?
A fantastic ‘seal of approval’ which affirms me in the fact that my work does not go unnoticed. Personal sense of accomplishment that I’m still staying in shape. Every year I tell myself the same thing: You’ve made it to the top, so make sure you stay there.
What drives you forward?
The belief that there’s still room for improvement. And if not improvement, then at least the persistence to stay in shape. The best Czech player award is a confirmation to me: You’ve done well so far, so it’s worth pushing ahead.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic holds ten Swedish Footballer of the Year awards. Are you looking to get that far?
No thinking about that. I’ve never set as a goal any amount of times I should win. I’ve never said to myself: I’d love to become Footballer of the Year again next year. I’ve really just strived to do my best. The fact that I’ve gotten trophies in return is just a reward.
Would you dare to keep playing until you hit forty?
I’m saying yes. As long as I’m positive that I’m a hundred percent ready to go to training when I get up in the morning, my career will go on. It’ll also depend on how my body takes it. So far so good.
You were just recovering from a calf injury and haven’t played for 20 days.
But I should be fine after the national team break. It’s nothing serious. I’m still motivated and excited for each training.
Did the fact that you overcame a personal crisis last year and left Chelsea contribute to that?
It was in impulse brought about by a generational shift. I didn’t feature much at Chelsea but when I did get the chance I reaffirmed myself in still having what it takes. I wasn’t prepared for being benched for good and revelling in my past career. The season also showed me just how much I would miss having to strain myself every weekend. I need it! At the very least I need to know that I’ve got a chance to fight for the number one goalie position. I lost that certainty at Chelsea when Thibaut Courtois joined.
SOURCE: Jan Palicka, MF Dnes (Prague, 22 March 2016)