Accomplished veteran Poland international goalkeeper JERZY DUDEK (25) is examined by the medical staff of Real Madrid during the UEFA Champions League match with French side AJ Auxerre at the Estadio Santiago Bernabeu in the capital city of Spain. (Pierre-Philippe Marcou/Getty Images)
Hard for the blog to not to feel bad for Real Madrid’s back-up goalkeeper, the aging JERZY DUDEK, then.
The 37-year-old Poland international has not had many opportunities to play for Los Blancos since arriving from English club FC Liverpool in the summer of 2007. What, with Spain World Cup champion IKER CASILLAS, one of if not the best backstop on planet at the moment, around and all. Still, Dudek has drawn nothing but compliments for his work ethic in practice and attitude from the bench.
Dudek, of course, is quite an accomplished goalkeeper in his own right.
While featuring for Dutch outfit Feyenoord Rotterdam, Dudek became the first foreigner to be selected as the Eredivisie’s Goalkeeper of the Year in 1999, an honor he again earned the following season.
In August of 2001, Dudek was sold by Feyenoord to legendary Premier League club FC Liverpool for a fee of 4.8 million English pounds; the Pole immediately took over as the Reds’ first choice between the sticks at Anfield in favor of Holland international SANDER WESTERVELD, who was reputed to be Britain’s most expensive goalkeeper when purchased from Dutch side Vitesse Arnhem for 4.0 million English pounds in the summer of 1999.
(Pierre-Philippe Marcou/Getty Images)
Liverpool finished second in the Premiership that 2001-02 season and Dudek was chosen as one of three finalists for UEFA’s Goalkeeper of the Year award along with Germany’s Oliver Kahn of Bayern Munich and Italy’s Gianluigi Buffon of FC Juventus.
Dudek spent the summer of 2002 with the national team of Poland at the 2002 FIFA World Cup final tournament held jointly in Japan and South Korea; the Liverpool goalkeeper, however, did not have a good showing and was dropped after allowing six goals in Poland’s first two games.
Perhaps disappointed with his performance on football’s grandest stage, Dudek’s form suffered a decline in the Premiership the next season but Liverpool did manage to reach the League Cup Final and the Pole kept a clean sheet as contemporary powerhouse Manchester United was defeated.
Dudek’s finest hour arrived in the Final of the 2004-05 UEFA Champions League competition. The Poland international pulled off a double save on AC Milan’s lethal Ukraine international striker ANDRIY SHEVCHENKO to preserve a tie in extra time and then stopped two more penalty kicks in the shootout. All this after Liverpool had courageously overturned a 3-0 deficit in regulation.
Dudek became just the third Polish footballer in history to claim a European Cup winners’ medal after attacker ZBIGINEW BONIEK (Italy’s FC Juventus – 1985) and goalkeeper JOZEF MLYNARCZYK (Portugal’s FC Porto – 1987) and was, once again, named as a finalist for the UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year accolade.
Despite attaining the pinnacle of success in Europe, Liverpool’s Spanish manager RAFAEL BENITEZ decided to purchase countryman JOSE MANUEL “Pepe” REINA from La Liga club Real Villareal for 6.0 million English pounds to start the 2005-06 campaign.
Dudek’s days at Anfield were numbered from that moment on. In the summer of 2007, the second most-capped goalkeeper (59 games) in Polish history departed for Spanish giant Real Madrid on a free transfer. Aside from a single start in the second last game of his first season with Los Blancos, Dudek has not played at all in La Liga since arriving in the capital city of Espana.
Eight games in the Copa del Rey and a lone appearance in the UEFA Champions League during the 2008-09 campaign constitute the veteran Poland international’s professional record his first three years in Spain.
On his first apperance this term, Dudek looked to be in tip-top form against French side AJ Auxerre in the UEFA Champions League before the unfortunate collision with the Burgundy outfit’s striker ROY CONTOUT towards the end of the first half.
A broken jaw is expected to keep the 37-year-old veteran out of action for at least six weeks.