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Vladimír Šmicer (born 24 May 1973 in Děčínmarker) is a former Czechmarker football midfielder and forward, who is currently manager of the Czech national football team.

Early career

An attacking midfielder, Šmicer first shot to prominence in 1996, helping Slavia Prague reach the semi-finals of the UEFA Cup and then starring for the Czech Republic during their run to the final of Euro 96.

Šmicer didn’t have to wait for notice at Euro 96. He signed a contract with the French club Lens prior to the championship. While at Lens, he enjoyed more success, inspiring the club to a first ever-French title in 1997/98. That season he scored seven goals and was a leader on the ground. He played in the Champions League and played a pivotal role in the side's successes in this tournament.

He left Lens to move to Liverpool in June 1999.

Liverpool

Šmicer joined Liverpool for a fee of £4.2 million, recruited to fill the void left by the departure of Steve McManaman to Real Madrid. Upon arriving at Anfield in 1999, Šmicer was given the famous Number 7 shirt although he would later wear number 11. When he left Liverpool in 2005, Šmicer said "Just signing for Liverpool in itself was a dream because I supported them as a kid. It was a dream come true". He made his debut for Liverpool in a game against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsboroughmarker. Liverpool won the game 2-0 and Šmicer impressed with his initial input. However his first campaign in the Premiership was a difficult one as he struggled to come to terms with the pace of the English game and his cause was not helped a succession of injuries.

The 2000/2001 season saw Šmicer or "Vladi", as the Liverpool fans affectionally called him, fare much better, whether he played on the flanks or behind the front two. Having got to grips with life in the Premiership and regaining full fitness he showed in glimpses just what he is really capable of and played an important role in the Reds treble cup triumph.

Unfortunately he was plagued with injury problems and a lack of consistency meant he was in and out of the team. However, there were some memorable moments for the Czech Republic international, like the last minute winner against Chelsea in 2002. And in Europe, a stunning volley against Borussia Dortmund and the performance in the 2-0 win over Roma in the Champions League at Anfield. A serious injury suffered in late 2003 blighted his career. However, he battled his way back to fitness and due to a severe injury crisis at the club during 2004-2005 season, Šmicer began to feature prominently for Liverpool under new manager Rafael Benítez. His playing return coincided with Liverpools quest for the Champions League and he made substitute appearances against Bayer Leverkusen, Juventus and Chelsea as Liverpool qualify for the Champions League Final against A.C. Milan.

Šmicer, who celebrated his 32nd birthday the day before, didn't start the final. Before the game, Benitez had decided that Šmicer's contract was not to be renewed. After 32 minutes, an injury to Harry Kewell gave him his opportunity to end his Liverpool career in style "Before the final, I so was eager to get on. It was my last match for Liverpool so I was deternined to end it in style. I was free in my head and that was my motivation - to do well for the club in my last match. I wanted to enjoy the big game."

His introduction to the game was met by groans by the Liverpool fans. These groans were either for Harry Kewell, suffering yet another injury, or for Vladi, who despite always being supportive of him, had come to see him as a failure. The scoreline was 1-0 to AC Milan but Liverpool were to go in three goals down at half time. It seemed like a miracle was needed for Liverpool to survive the second half. Their captain Steven Gerrard pulled one back and the dream was back on. Less than two minutes later, Xabi Alonso passed to Dietmar Hamann outside the box. Hamann saw Šmicer just outside him and rolled the ball towards him. He took one touch and drew his right foot back to strike a 20 yard shot. It almost hit the hand of Šmicer's Czech team-mate Milan Baros as it flew past the goalkeeper at the far post. Whatever hope was alive was surely realised after the goal and the passion evoked in Šmicer's face in his celebration ignited belief into thousands of Reds watching. Before the 60th minute, Liverpool were level after Alonso scored from the rebound of his penalty. They had scored three goals in a six minute spell, stunning the Italian giants. The match went into Extra-Time and penalties and Šmicer scored the decisive penalty for Liverpool. Moments later, Jerzy Dudek saved Andriy Shevchenko's penalty to win the shootout and the final for Liverpool.

Benitez stuck with the decision he made before the game that Šmicer's contract was not to be renewed and he was released as a free agent. Nevertheless, he had secured his place into millions of Liverpool fans hearts with his performance, extinguishing any thoughts of a failure. It was the perfect ending to his Liverpool career. His Champions League Final heroics of 2005 ensured that "Vladi" will forever be remembered as legend on the Kop.

Bordeaux

Šmicer moved on to Girondins Bordeaux in the summer of 2005. In the 2006-07 Champions League, Bordeaux were drawn against Liverpool in the group stages. He indicated his delight at returning to Anfield, although injury barred him from playing a part in either of the two matches between the sides. Šmicer suffered a serious knee injury that sidelined him for more than a year. The injury was the worst moment of his career and he even considered retiring. As a result, he missed the 2006 World Cup in Germany but he did not retire. After another long recovery, Šmicer did not extend his contract in Bordeaux and left the club in the summer of 2007. He made 28 appearances and scored 3 goals during his time at Bordeaux.

Slavia Prague

In July 2007, Šmicer returned to SK Slavia Praha, where he signed a one year contract. His return to Slavia sparked joy among the club's supporters. That season, Slavia won its first league title after 12 years, a triumph which Šmicer was also part of. Overall, he has not played much because of injuries. He ended his football career after draw 0-0 with Viktoria Plzeň in 9 November 2009.

International career

Šmicer began his International career in 1993. He was an essential player in three European Championships for the Czech Republic. In total earning 81 caps, scoring 27 goals. He also has one cap for the old Czechoslovakia national team.

Šmicer was part of the Czech Republic squad for Euro 1996. The then-22-year-old midfielder started the country’s stunning campaign in Englandmarker. The Czechs were down 3-2 in a game against Russia and needed to draw in order to qualify for the playoff rounds. Šmicer scored the all important equalizer two minutes before the end of the game. The Czechs then advanced through the playoffs to the final game, which they lost to Germany after extra-time.

Four years later, in Euro 2000. Šmicer scored both goals in the national team’s only victory, 2-0 against Denmark. At Euro 2004, he scored the winning goal in the team’s 3-2 win over the Netherlands. In that game, the Czechs were 2-0 down after 20 minutes of play but still managed to recover. The comeback began an impressive march to the tournament’s semi-finals. Šmicer has said the game against Netherlands was the most memorable moment in his international career.

Šmicer holds the distinction of being one of only four players to score at three UEFA European Championships - Euro '96, Euro 2000 and Euro 2004. The others being Jürgen Klinsmann (Euro 88, Euro 92 and Euro 96), Thierry Henry and Nuno Gomes (both Euro 2000, Euro 2004 and Euro 2008).

Although he didn't play at Euro 2008, Šmicer made his debut as a television commentator during the Euro 2008 opening match between the home team Switzerland and his native Czech Republic, held June 7 in Basel.

Managerial career

Just one day after retiring from football, Šmicer became Head Coach of the Czech national football team working alongside coach Michal Bilek.

Statistics

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85||23||||||||||||||||
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Honours

SK Slavia Praha

1992-93 Slavia Prague First League 21 9

1993-94 Slavia Prague Gambrinus liga 18 6
1994-95 16 3
1995-96 28 9

1996-97 Lens Division 1 33 5
1997-98 28 7
1998-99 30 4

1999-00 Liverpool Premier League 21 1
2000-01 27 2
2001-02 22 4
2002-03 21 0
2003-04 20 3
2004-05 10 0

2005-06 Girondins Bordeaux Ligue 1 25 3
2006-07 3 0

2007-08 Slavia Prague Gambrinus liga 12 2
2008-09 8 3
2009-10 3 0


RC Lens



Liverpool



Bordeaux



  • National Team Czech
    • European Championships 1996 runner up


References





External links




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