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Warming under wings of the 'Blonde Angel'

At an age, when all footballers seem to court attention, Nedved is a glaring anomaly. He not only shuns the limelight, but also reviles it.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2006 13:33 IST

"More hair, less talent!" That is how a banner had greeted Pavel Nedved's arrival at Juventus, as a gale of skepticism and trepidation had engulfed Turin.

The alarm bells were ringing because the Old Lady's paragon of excellence, Zidane, was leaving the Alps' serenity for the brusqueness of Real Madrid, at a time when he was at his zenith.

And much to the fans' incredulity, the Juve management had identified Nedved as the man to fill Zidane's shoes. And by golly, those are not easy shoes to fill, and many would have quivered in theirs by the irrefutable enormity of the task.

But not Nedved, who took Juve's 'broken wings' and made the Old Lady fly again, if not soar. The fans' concern proved ephemeral, as Nedved was more than an adequate replacement for Zizou.

"So what if the Balding God left us, we have our Blonde Angel" banners plastered all over the Stadio delle Alpi screamed in unison an year later, as the 'Furia Ceca' (Furious Czech), as Nedved is called owing to his glower and apoplectic fury, helped the Old Lady to the 26th Scudetto.

Storming the ramparts of greatness with alacrity, Nedved made the fans forget about the man "who plays with silk gloves on his feet". And come June, the diadem among the Czech diamonds will is hoping to follow in Zizou's footsteps in the World Cup as well and hope to better it, as he did in Turin.

The 2003 European Footballer of the year will be leading the Czech charge in Germany, but only after he made the entire nation supplicate before him to cut short his retirement. He responded at crunch time to the SOS - when the Czech's qualification campaign seemed to be stumbling - and gave them the fillip they needed to leap the distance.

At an age, when all footballers seem to court attention, Nedved is a glaring anomaly. He not only shuns the limelight, but also reviles it.

A triumph of perspiration over inspiration, which can erect the guillotine as well as he can deliver it, Nedved epitomises Thomas Jefferson's tenet - "The harder I work, the more luck I seem to have."

His indefatigability, kamikaze tackles, incisive passes and lethal 'bullet shots' have been the main reason behind the Juve's intransigence in Italy.

Now, he hopes to make the Czechs unreachable. Although his career has been astounding, a major trophy like the Champions League or the World Cup has eluded him.

This time, though, the Blonde Angel would be hoping to court the elusive muse. In that pursuit, whether he'll be the Fallen Angel or the Avenging one, that time will tell, but he'll always is an angel to his fandom.

First Published: Jun 03, 2006 13:33 IST