Mourinho, while prepared to ‘thank’ Cech for his service by selling him with a year on his contract, did not want to have to face him in the Premier League next season, particularly in goal for title rivals.
But the Russian owner, after consulting chairman Bruce Buck and directors Marina Granovskaia and Eugene Tenenbaum decided that the club owed Cech his freedom, albeit at a price. Agreement is close although the clubs may not seal the deal until the weekend after haggling over Chelsea’s £11m valuation even though Cech has only one year of his contract remaining.
Over the past decade the 33-year-old has been one of the finest keepers in Europe, even after his confidence-battering head injury in 2006 and despite being relegated behind Thibaud Courtois at Stamford Bridge last season.
Cech still played a key role, particularly in a crucial 1:0 win over Everton in February. At the season’s end Mourinho said: “Without Petr I don’t think we’d be champions because he played important matches for us. Without these points, we probably wouldn’t be champions.”
Chelsea captain John Terry has assessed Cech as worth up to 15 points for Arsenal next season which would, in theory, lift them above the Blues by the end of next season. This past term Chelsea ended 12 points clear of third-placed Arsenal.
Cech can only improve security in and around Arsenal’s defence while enhancing the puzzle about why Wenger waited seven years to import a class successor to Jens Lehmann. They have also lacked leadership and a winning mentality since the times of Patrick Vieira and Thierry Henry.
His 11 years at Chelsea have rewarded him with the Champions League, Europa League, four Premier League titles, four FA Cups and three League Cups. Yet his best years could be ahead of him. Manchester United signed Edwin van der Sar at 34 and he went on to the league four times before retiring in 2011 at 40.
Cech joins Arsenal in the expectation of playing every game after 494 appearances for Chelsea, a club record for a foreign player. This may prompt Poland’s Wojciech Szczesny and Colombia’s David Ospina to ponder a future elsewhere to maintain their national team status. This could be more important to Szczesny with Euro 2016 around the corner.
While Cech may make his Arsenal debut against Chelsea in the Community Shield curtain-raiser to next season, his role as No2 on the Blues’ bench could be destined for Stoke City’s Asmir Begovic.