He was dubbed "the Little Mozart" for his skill in orchestrating the midfield and for his prodigious and sometimes spectacular talent. But, like the original Mozart, it was not always easy for Czech footballer Tomáš Rosický, and he has finally blown the whistle on his long playing career.
The 37-year-old finally admitted on Wednesday that mind over matter was no longer a formula that worked for himself or his latest club, Sparta Prague. Rosický called time on his sometimes sparkling but frequently injury marred career just short of the 20 year landmark and probably without the happy end that he had hoped for with the Czech club.
"It’s come to the stage now that my mind can no longer do it either and that there’s no point trying to continue when I cannot offer something to my fellow players and to Sparta itself."
And the tributes started flooding in. Perhaps, the most fulsome came from English Premier League club Arsenal, where Rosický made 246 appearances, scored 28 goals, and won two FA cups after joining the club in 2006 and staying there 10 years. But long periods at the London club were marred by a hamstring tendon injury which left him sidelined.
Rosický phoned the club to leave a personal message about his retirement and that included the comment that he would be a Gunner forever. And he added that one reason he became a firm favourite with the Arsenal fans was because he often scored so frequently in derby games against rivals Tottenham.
And there were tributes to Rosický from current Arsenal goalkeeper and former Czech international teammate, Petr Čech, who described the midfielder as one of the best players in the contemporary game. And current Arsenal midfield star Mesut Özil described Rosický as a player with a big heart and congratulated him on a great career.
And he was remembered as well by German media who recalled his Budesliga triumph in 2002 with Borussia Dortmund during his five year spell with the club after joining in a record transfer from Sparta Prague in 2001. There he combined in what was often a lethal pairing with fellow Czech, striker Jan Koller. In terms of goal per game, that was one of the most fruitful periods in the player’s career.
And that duo combined again at the top level for the Czech national side, still flying high in the years following the team’s appearance in the European Championship finals in 1996. Rosický made his first appearance for the national team in 2000 and played in five top tournaments including one World Cup. He was made captain in 2006.
In the face of injury and age, Arsenal held onto Rosický after many predicted his contract would end. When it did, the player said he only had once choice to return in August 2016 to the Czech club where his professional career began, Sparta Prague. But that swansong never really materialised, injury sidelined Rosický over the following two seasons and he made just 12 appearances and scored one goal.
But the player says he might still find a non-playing role with Sparta.
"I really like football a lot and there is a good chance that I could continue with Sparta. I have always felt that in football and life I have learnt something. I feel I have something to offer and we will have to see how it turns out."