A Day With: Liverpool hero Vladimir Smicer

Denzil Pinto 09:40 29/10/2015
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  • Celebrating success: Smicer (l).

    Vladimir Smicer is a name that no Liverpool fan or player will ever forget. After all, it was his goal which made it 3-2 and inspired his team-mates to a remarkable penalty shoot-out victory over a strong AC Milan side in the 2005 Champions League final.

    That trophy was one of eight won during his six-year stay at Anfield which proved to be his most successful stint during a 17-year career.

    The former Czech Republic attacking midfielder, who has won league titles in his homeland and France, still has a heavy heart for Liverpool and that was shown in the UAE last week when the 42-year-old represented the English outfit in the Dubai Duty Free Football Legends tournament.

    Having rolled back the years to dazzle the fans in Dubai, Smicer told Sport360 of his memories of the 2005 Champions League final, his toughest opponents in the Premier League and his heartbreak at missing out on the 2006 World Cup.

    You had a successful stint at Liverpool and will be best remembered for scoring the second goal against AC Milan in the 2005 Champions League final. Would you say that was your career highlight?

    Yes definitely. Of course we had a great year in 2001, winning five trophies in one season and that was something special because we had a great team. But winning the Champions League in Istanbul on my last appearance for the club, I can say everything went perfect.

    I scored the second goal and it really was the highlight of my career. I couldn’t finish my career at Anfield in a better way than Istanbul.

    With AC Milan leading 3-0 at half-time, can you recall the memories in the dressing room?

    We were very disappointed at half-time. We knew this could be our one and only chance to win the Champions League in our lives and didn’t expect to be in the final every year.

    For the first five minutes, everyone had their heads down and Rafa Benitez came in and he was trying to be positive. He said it’s still not over and there are still 40,000 fans inside the stadium and they deserve something. He changed the team and had a good talk and he said if we can score just one goal that will give us the confidence to get the second and then the third.

    It happened exactly as he said. It was unreal to score three goals in the second half against AC Milan. We didn’t play that bad in the first half but they were brilliant and just so good. Kaka played a dream half. 

    But then Rafa told Didi Hamann to mark Kaka and suddenly we changed the sytem – playing 3-5-2 instead of 4-4-1-1 and it worked.

    Can you recall the moments in the lead up to that goal and why you decided to shoot from so far out in that game?

    When the action started on the left hand side, I was free and just shouted out my name to Didi Hamann and luckily he heard me and passed to me.

    When he passed it, I said to myself, I just need one control and try to hit it because there was nobody on the right hand side and I had no other possibilities to pass the ball. And even if I wanted to pass the ball, they were well marked by AC Milan players. So I hit the ball as sweetly as I could.

    I didn’t score too many goals from outside the box but was so glad it went in. Since that goal, I knew straight away we had a chance and the rest is history.

    Your were part of a successful Liverpool side, winning numerous titles. What would you say was the most important trophy?

    The most important was to win the Premier League and we didn’t win that. When you play football, you want to win as many trophies as you can. I was so happy we won many trophies, especially the FA Cup.

    It was difficult to win the Premier League. Manchester United and Arsenal were very good with David Beckham, Paul Scholes, Robert Pires and Patrick Vieira all playing. It was tough to beat them and we were trying but I was just so happy that we won the FA Cup as it’s the oldest cup competition in the world.

    Who was the best player you played alongside?

    It has to be Steven Gerrard. He was such a big influential player for us. When he was on the pitch, I knew we always had a chance to win the game. He was the heart of our team and a great leader.

    Liverpool's talisman: Gerrard.

    Who was the toughest opponent and team you played against?

    There were a few. I didn’t like to play Chelsea at Stamford Bridge because the players and fans were always ready and made it daunting for us. If you’re talking about individuals, then probably Marcel Desailly and Jaap Stam. They were strong, fast and really good defenders.

    You made 80 appearances for Czech Republic and were part of the squad which finished runners-up in the Euro 1996. But a leg injury prior to the 2006 World Cup ruled you out of that competition. Looking back, how difficult was it to deal with that news?

    I was crying when I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it because that World Cup in 2006 was going to be my last chance. I was 32 and I had a leg injury and with the World Cup four years later, I’d be 36, so I knew the World Cup dream was over for me.

    Since retirement what are you up to these days?

    One of my friends bought Slavia Prague and he asked me to become a team board member as he wants to make the club very successful.

    I’m doing that full-time but I also still play in exhibition games which I really enjoy because it’s always a pleasure to meet old friends and get to play around the world.