Juventus legend Pavel Nedved wants to Gigi Buffon to play until he’s 50 and explains the biggest disappointments in his playing career.
Speaking in his native Czech Republic to national paper Idnes, the Bianconeri vice-President looked back at his playing career in the national team and his years of success with Juventus.
The following article was translated by Radek Jaska – You can follow him here on Twitter.
The Czech Republic played a WC qualifier against Germany in Hamburg, were you there?
“No, I have no time, I am very busy and couldn’t make time for that match.”
Or maybe you just didn’t want to go back to the place where a certain defeat hurt you? (note: Czech Republic played Italy in the group stage of WC 2006, a match which sent the Czech Republic home and this was the end of Nedved’s career in the NT)
“I don’t feel that way even though certain nostalgia is there. I remember everything that happened that night. I couldn’t score past Buffon even, though I did all I could. Even to this day I say to him: “Gigi, I was mad at you that night.” We played the whole half without Polák who was sent off but we had hope till the end. The instant feeling after the match was emptiness.”
“It didn’t hurt so much when Italy became World Champions.”
Do you regret retiring from the NT after the World Cup in Germany when at Juve you were still playing at the highest level?
“No, it was the right decision. Certainly right. We were relegated to Serie B, and I wasn’t sure if I would be ready to play at the highest level. I didn’t feel like it even though it turned out that I could still compete later on. It’s good that younger players got some minutes instead.”
Coach Bruckner claimed that the WC in Germany would be the peak of our golden generation…
“Now I know it wasn’t meant to be. Koller was injured, Baroš as well and Poborský played only for a Czech team, Budějovice. The peak remained EURO in Portugal.”
The NT team of Germany is to be feared of, do you agree?
“I do, they have the same mentality as Juventus. We, wherever we go, we want and have to win. No underestimating, working at 100 percent. That’s in our DNA. Germany have it the same way.”
The Czech NT counts its losses; Cech retired, along with 5 other players from the starting line up, Rosický injured…
“I am witnessing how our talents disappear. Maybe our generation around Patrik Schick could became good but who else? In Juventus they often ask me who would I recomend from our country… Sorry, I would love to give you names but I don’t have any… Our sports director Paratici would often tell me how, at his times at Sampdoria, he would often go to Czech Republic and talents were everywhere. Now, we don’t even bother sending scouts to the Czech Republic. I have no clue where all talents disappeared to, but I know very well how we used to train. Hours and hours spent on the pitch, the best challenges the best, and that pushed us all forward. We had will, we were determined, hungry and football was everything for us. Now, the youngsters are spoiled, they have many distractions, it’s different times. Why would I push for more when I already have a lot and I am being told how good I am?“
“Because I want to improve! Because I want to be the best! We have Czech player Macek at Juventus, a very skilled kid born in 1997, the other day I took him aside and told him: ‘Listen, you need to work harder, you can’t play just when you have the ball. You need to run, ask for the ball, make space, show that you want to be better!’
Did he listen?
“He took my advice to heart and in the youth CL against Zagreb he ran his ass off. Jiří Němec and Josef Chovanec had a similar influence on me. When they were speaking, I was all ears.“
Do you give advice to players from the primavera?
“When it’s neccesery, I always help. I am learning not to meddle in the work of coaches, but know when to take action, encourage or tell them what’s wrong. I observe all of our teams and I try not to miss a single training session.“
What does it look like when Pavel Nedvěd intervenes?
“Just ask our players how does it look…“
Are you always in a suit?
“Always. That’s our duty, our standard. I can’t represent Juventus with jeans or football boots on. President Agnelli made it very clear and it is a rule!“
If I would have to guess in 2009 what would be next for you, working in an office would be at the bottom of my list…
“Yeah, in my list too! The very bottom! I am a typical Vice-President. I am in my office two times a week. I am still on the pitch, I speak to players, coaches, watch matches, deal with managers and discuss transfers. I am still learning about football from the other side and I feel greatly responsible for the club.“
Workaholic as you used to be, right..?
“You can’t do football from your sofa and I couldn’t say no to president Agnelli. He is a great boss and his father brought me to the club. I am thankfull to their family for a lot.“
You wanted to rest, play golf, ride a bike, travel, be with family…
“I didn’t want to continue with football, I felt drained but eventually my new job made me feel enthusiastic. Now I can thank Agnelli that he had given me this opportunity because I can feel all the emotions again.”
“There’s lot more stress in the stands than on the pitch but I am glad to be back in football. It’s my life.“
What did your wife say?
“She imagined a different scenario, I feel kind of guilty towards her. The deal was supposed to be that I arrive to the club three times a week. Now I arrive at 9am and go home at 6pm. Every day. After my playing career I promised my wife weekends together but that’s still not happening.“
What does your wife say at the fact that you’re still busy?
“She is extremely tolerant. She says: ‘You’re still too young for sitting at home’. My wife knows what type of person I am . The only job I can do at a high level is football. And when I don’t work I try to spend time with my family.“
Your kids are almost grown ups…
“My daughter already studies at a Swiss university. Young Pavel will be 17 soon. When the kids have their own lives, I don’t know if my wife will let me go to football.. (laughs)“
What are your plans? Do you fancy a position in FIFA or UEFA?
“I did have these kind of thoughts and I still do. On the other hand I would need to work in National football, preferably as a chairman.“
Well, there you go…
“No, not now, for sure. Now we have a good chairman. And I have tons of work. My contract with Juventus ends in 2018.“
A vice president with a contract for fixed period?
“Why not? Firstly, I had a five year contract, then a three year. We share our goals, ambitions, and when the period ends, the president calls a meeting and says: ‘It was good, but I don’t you anymore, I need you, you and you etc…’
The first five years of your contract went very well…
“It was great, 5 tittles, Super Cups, just the CL got away..“
What are your plans for next three years?
“We certainly want 6th tittle in a row, nobody has ever done it. And for the CL? It still interests us…“
There are still players in the club that were your teammates. Isn’t it weird for you?
“Not at all. They still look at me the same way. They know how much effort I put into training and they see now that I still work every day. We very often talk about it with Gigi. How to improve? How to be even better? All the new players that come to us are in disbelief because they had no idea what Juventus actually means.“
What does it mean?
“A lifestyle. You’d be surprised how much we train, how does our detailed preparation looks. All our opponent work more than 100% so we have to be ready for it. You can’t tell stories about it, you have to experience it.“
Has Buffon told you when he plans to retire? He is nearly 39…
“Oh, please, don’t take him away from us! Let him play while he is healthy! He is an exceptional guy. He retuned from EUROs and told me: ‘I want to play at least till the WC in Russia, for sure’. He is the first one in the dressing room for training, he still works hard, and makes practically no mistakes. When I see how much passion he puts into training, I want him to stay in the goal until he’s 50!”
Paul Pogba left in summer for a record fee…
“I felt sorry but we couldn’t say no. We have the same agent, Mino Raiola, so thanks to that we were very close. When he first came to Juve he didn’t have a good season. I would go out with him to dinners and kept explaining to him what he should be doing differently, how he should train… I said to him: ‘Play it simple and you’ll be the king. Do more, work more and if you win just one Ballon D’Or, it will be a failure!“
What about the money United bought him for?
“It wasn’t possible to say no. It was an enormous sum but if more and more money are being invested in football, soon there will come time where the best players will be sold for €200m.“
Do Juve have financial limit that they would not break?
“We’ve always had that. For transfer fees, as for wages. But given that we’ve paid €90m this summer for Higuain, we broke the limit. On the other hand we’ve shown that we have the hunger and will to achieve something really great.“
When Higuain first came to Juve he was a bit overweight.., did it scare you?
“Gonzalo may have the tendency to put some weight on in the summer but there were no problems from us. He is in great form. I personally consider him as one of the TOP 3 forwards in the world.“
What about his teammate Dybala?
“An unbelievable talent. He plays football similarly to Messi. We hope he stays with us as long as possible.“
When is the last time you’ve played football?
“Every Thursday we play football with president Agnelli. We play for an hour and we feel great.“
How do you stay in shape? You still look great!
“That’s just an imagination, but I try to go for a little run before work. I need it, I have to. 10 kilometers quickly because I don’t have time to run slowly. Though, I still have one dream…“
“I was in Skalná, my hometown, in September, I trained with local team and I promised them I would get myself a player registration form and play one last match with my son. My very good friend will add his son and the midfield will be like a family. Our fathers used to play for this club so we can do it too. I hope it happens some day in June.“
You don’t have a registration card in Juventus?
“No, I am a free agent and so far, the only club interested was Skalná.. (laughs).“
Are you sad that your son didn’t follow you footsteps?
“Not at all. I was fine with us kicking the ball around our garden, he didn’t want to go this way and I didn’t want to push him. Now he played twice for Skalná and he had fun and I am happy.“