Player Profile: Vladimir Smicer
Date of Birth: 24/05/1973
Height: 1.80 m (5 ft 11 in)
Position(s): Attacking Midfielder
National Team: Czech Republic
International Caps: 81
International Goals: 27
Vladimír Šmicer first burst onto the club football scene in 1992 when he made his first appearance for Czech side, Slavia Prague. Smicer spent five years at the club, quickly establishing himself as one of the leading members of the first team and making 81 league appearances, and in the process scoring 26 goals.
During his time with Slavia, Smicer played a massive part in guiding the team to the 1995/96 UEFA Cup semi-finals where they lost over two legs 2-0 on aggregate to French club, Bordeaux.
But Smicer’s star was on the rise and before the start of Euro 1996, he had made the move to France to play for RC Lens. At Lens, he confirmed himself as one of the up and coming talents in European football.
Smicer quickly established as a real attacking threat with an eye for goal, helping the club secure their only French League 1 title during the 1997-98 season. Smicer made 91 starts for Lens between 1996 to 1999 and his fine form during this time soon had him on the radar of a number of clubs in the Premier League. It wasn’t long before Smicer made the move to Merseyside in the north of England, signing for English giants, Liverpool.
It was while he was at the Reds that Smicer’s career truly blossomed, albeit after a rough start. Sadly, much like other signings from around this time like Harry Kewell and Bruno Cheyrou, his time at Liverpool was often blighted by injury.
Smicer, who cost Liverpool just over £4 million pounds, initially struggled with the fast, physical nature of English football. However, Smicer learned to adapt, and in the famous number 7 shirt, played an important role in the unique treble won by Liverpool in 2001 when they claimed the FA Cup, League Cup and UEFA Cup under French manager, Gerard Houllier.
In 2003, Smicer last minute winner against Chelsea in a league match is still fondly remembered by Liverpool supporters and further trophy success followed that year with another League Cup triumph.
Injuries, however, continued to be a problem for the attacking midfielder and Smicer often found himself on the bench. In fact, in the 184 games he played over the course of his career for Liverpool, he warmed the bench as a substitute no less than 74 times.
A change of manager at Liverpool saw Rafael Benitez take charge of the club in 2004 but Smicer had little chance to impress the Spaniard as he underwent surgery to fix a cartilage fracture and only returned to action in February 2005.
But 2005 was the year of his greatest contribution to the club. Although he started on the bench in the Champions League final of that year against Carlo Ancelotti’s A.C. Milan, Smicer played a vital role in the match and wrote himself into Liverpool folklore.
With the Reds down 3-0 at half-time, all seemed lost for the Merseyside giants. But then came one of the greatest comebacks in sporting history with Smicer, who came off the bench to replace an injured Harry Kewell in the first half, scoring the second goal of three, helping Liverpool take the game to extra-time and penalties. He scored in the resulting penalty shoot-out, and with Jerzy Dudek’s heroics in goal, Liverpool secured the match and Smicer had a Champions League winner’s medal.
That was to be his final contribution to the club and with his contract expiring, Smicer made the move back to France to play for Bordeaux. But again, injuries proved a pitfall, even preventing him from facing his old club Liverpool in the Champions League both home and away.
A serious knee injury that sidelined him for a year followed and by the end of 2007, Smicer had moved back to Slavia Prague after making just 28 league appearances for Bordeaux.
During his second stint with Slavia, he helped the club to their first league title in 12 years in his first season back at the club. Smicer had come full circle and it was fitting that he would bring his career to an end at the club when he retired in 2009.
Smicer had an illustrious international career with the Czech Republic and played 81 times for his country, scoring 27 goals in the process.
After gaining his first cap in 1993, Smicer represented the Czech Republic in three major tournaments: Euro 1996, Euro 2000 and Euro 2004. He managed to score in each of those tournaments and became the second player after Germany’s Jurgen Klinsmann to score at three separate Euro’s.
The attacking midfielder made the last of his international appearance in 2006 but missed the World Cup that year due to injury.
Where is Vladimir Smicer now?
Life after his playing career has seen
Smicer run for the European parliament in 2014, perform the role of sports
manager for the Czech Republic national side until 2013, and regularly turn out
for the Liverpool Masters side in matches around the world.
He is also a club ambassador for Liverpool and owns a hotel in Prague where he lives near his former Liverpool and Czech Republic team-mate, Patrik Burger.
Did you know? Interesting facts about Vladimir Smicer
– Smicer was signed by Liverpool in 1999 to replace Merseyside favourite, Steve MacManaman who moved to Real Madrid.
– Although he initially was given the iconic number 7 shirt worn by club legends such as MacManaman and Kenny Dalglish, the arrival of Australian Harry Kewell at the club saw Smicer move to the number 11 shirt in 2003.
– Smicer based his 2014 run for European Parliament on fighting childhood obesity, although he didn’t get elected.
– He celebrated Liverpool’s 2005 Champions League win with a couple of drinks and a giant cigar.
– When he retired from football, Smicer still turned out for an amateur side in the Czech Republic.
– Smicer is married, a father to two children and spends his spare time playing golf.