As Andres Palop stuck out a piece of parchment reading “Rennes” in the draw for the last-16 of the Europa League, Arsenal goalkeeper Petr Cech smiled at the prospect of facing his natural heir, Toumas Koubek.
Before bursting into the scene at Chelsea, Rennes witnessed two years of the Czech Republic international who had built a good reputation as a fan favourite.
It was after two seasons and 70 games that he moved to Chelsea, where he built his legacy. After a decade laden with clean-sheets and trophies, Cech moved to the red side of London.
The Czech International recently announced that he will be retiring at the end of the season. In what is panning into a wholesome feel-good story, Cech will be back at Rennes, guarding the posts albeit in Arsenal colours in front of the fans who have always loved him dearly.
Also, he will be up against his heir, Koubek. Cech advised the Rennes board to go after Sparta Prague’s custodian Koubek during the summer of 2017. The custodian convinced the board that Koubek was then a better player than he was at that age and that statement was not met with any objections.
He also helped the Czech keeper feel comfortable at the French club, sending him a list of French terms which he thought would help him fit in well.
Koubek followed the same career path as Cech, moving from Prague to Rennes and now has a chance to take his mentor on in a crucial European clash.
However, Bernd Leno has been the number one choice for Unai Emery and it’s not guaranteed that Cech will be starting against Rennes.
But the fact that he has played four games in Europe this season, including the last two against BATE Borisov shows that the manager is not particularly against using his services in the Europa League.
Should he play a part in the away fixture, it would be a fitting end to Cech’s career – a return to a club where it all began, in front of the fans who love him so much and with his heir guarding the opposition’s post.