Arsene Wenger considers him one of the best players he has had the pleasure of managing. His former teammates constantly spoke of his relentless professionalism and commitment.
Use the above to describe a player and most will guess it to be Patrick Vieira, or somebody else who featured prominently for Arsenal during their double wins or Invincibles campaign.
Instead, that man is Tomas Rosicky
. Nicknamed “the little Mozart” for his capacity to orchestrate the midfield through great technique and control, the Prague-born playmaker is also Czech Republic’s fourth-highest goalscorer of all-time.
Rosicky was loved by fans of Arsenal – his club of choice after an impressive World Cup in 2006 – for the beautiful way he played the game. After all, even the best midfielders in the world don’t necessarily combine exquisite vision with goalscoring expertise and fierce determination. Sadly, the most notable attribute he didn’t have was the one that stopped him from reaching the elite status he deserved: he couldn’t stay fit.
Rosicky played 247 competitive games
for The Gunners and while that might seem like a lot on paper, an average of 25 appearances per season in all forms doesn’t quite do justice to his importance to the team.
The ex-Dortmund man didn’t play a single game in 18 months from January 2008 to July 2009 due to a tendon hamstring injury, but he returned that summer to help Arsenal challenge for honours.
Perhaps his finest hour for the north Londoners came in March 2014, when he scored the winning goal against Tottenham Hotspur at White Hart Lane. That though was the swansong for Rosicky, whose performances soon deteriorated prior to a move back to his boyhood club, AC Sparta Prague.
Injuries robbed him of one final hurrah and he promptly retired last December, stating that his body couldn’t beat the brunt of playing top-level football anymore.
While it is tempting to remember Rosicky’s career for the injuries, he must also be remembered for what he gave to football. Rosicky was hugely gifted on the pitch and off it, he was a model professional.