After moving to Arsenal, Cech says his ambition is to win trophies

PRAGUE: Petr Cech said it was the hardest decision of his career to agree to end 11 successful years at Chelsea and transfer to English Premier League rival Arsenal.

The 33-year-old Cech lost his starting goalkeeper role last season, which he said he was not ready to accept. “Last season, I realised how much I love playing football on a regular basis, how much I love to be a part of the team, week in and week out,” Cech said on Wednesday at a news conference in Prague. “My commitment and approach to football is the same as at the beginning of my career. I’m far from being finished and being happy to sit on the bench.”

At Chelsea, he won the Champions League, four Premier Leagues, four FA Cups, three League Cups, and one Europa League after joining from French club Rennes. Arsenal signed him for a reported fee of about $17.3 million, but Cech said it was not about the money, but about purely football reasons. “I have big personal ambitions and motivation to win trophies, and win games, and Arsenal Football Club have the same,” he said. He received other serious contract offers, but Arsenal’s deal was the best, he added.

A meeting with Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger, who talked about the club’s future, was crucial in his decision. “It’s a club capable of winning, ready to work hard, and move forward,” Cech said. Arsenal might have signed Cech in 2003 after his first season at Rennes, but the Czech Republic was not yet a member of the European Union, and it was too difficult to receive a UK work visa, Cech said. He will join the club for training in the second week of July, and travel to Singapore to play a preseason tournament.

He said he retained respect and admiration for Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho, whom he will try to beat on August 2 in his first competitive match for Arsenal, for the Community Shield - the traditional curtainraiser in the English season between the league champion, Chelsea, and FA Cup holder. “Of course, I’m looking forward to that game,” Cech said. “It will be my first opportunity to win a trophy (with Arsenal). I’m looking forward to a new chapter, a new challenge, and believe that I will be as successful with Arsenal as I was with Chelsea,” he added.