Petr Cech has revealed that he spent his second season at Chelsea playing with two broken shoulders, with considerable pain endured prior to suffering a fractured skull in October 2006.
The Czech goalkeeper was snapped up by the Blues from Rennes in 2004.
Eleven memorable years would be spent at Stamford Bridge, with 494 appearances while collecting four Premier League titles, four FA Cups, three League Cups, a Champions League crown and a Europa League triumph.
It was, however, not always smooth sailing for Cech during his time in west London. A serious threat to his life, not just his career, was posed by an infamous collision with Reading forward Stephen Hunt that left the commanding keeper needing to sport head protection from that point on.
Cech was, however, well accustomed to nursing himself through outings by then, telling Chelsea’s official website of the commitment he showed to the cause: “There was one thing I never talked about, and people didn’t know at the time.
“Halfway through my first season at Chelsea I broke the labrum in my shoulder. I carried on and finished the season.
“It felt like during the summer it would recover. It didn’t! During the second season I already had a massive problem with my shoulder and I was protecting it. Then, in the first part of my second season, I did exactly the same thing to my other shoulder. So I played my second season with broken shoulders!
“I was trying to get the pain low for the games and find ways to train properly so I didn’t feel the unbelievable pain every day, which was difficult to avoid.
“I thought about having surgery during the second season, but I didn’t want to risk missing the World Cup in Germany that summer. Nobody really knew how long it would take me to come back.
“To my relief I decided to have the surgery after the World Cup. I came back fast from that and I was enjoying games and not having pain while training and moving. A few games later, we played Reading!”
Cech, who ended his career at Arsenal before returning to Chelsea in a technical advisor post, battled his way back from serious ailments to cement a standing as an all-time great.
He said: “When you come back from a career-threatening or life-threatening injury, you don’t think about pressure. I just enjoyed every moment. I suddenly realised every game could be my last one. So whenever I played from then on, I enjoyed it because I had another game to play.
“I was so happy the journey hadn’t ended in Reading. It was a positive feeling and played a part in my recovery. Every game felt like medicine for me.
“Leading to the end of the season and the FA Cup final, it felt like there was no other outcome than us winning it. I was so positive. It was a great joy and satisfaction. It was the first FA Cup we won together as a group, and it felt like the right end to the season.”