Koubek: Cech him out
Tall, imposing and Czech. It’s hardly surprising that Tomas Koubek has been compared to Petr Cech since arriving at Rennes from Sparta Prague in the summer.
The current Arsenal goalkeeper made the exact same transfer back in 2002. Cech also advised his former club to sign Koubek after receiving a call from the Rennes president in August. Koubek now has a tough act to follow, but he isn’t daunted.
The bearded goalkeeper told The Ligue 1 Show on beIN SPORTS: "For me it was a dream to play in Europe's top five leagues and I'm very happy to be here at Stade Rennais. I heard about Petr Cech from the fans, because the older fans know him of course and now I hope another Czech goalkeeper will be like him."
Linguistic help from Cech
Koubek's biggest challenge since arriving in France has been the language. For any goalkeeper communication is vital. The 25-year-old has been working hard in the classroom, but has also received help from a certain Czech Republic and Rennes legend.
Rennes goalkeeping coach Olivier Sorin said: "Petr Cech was sending him messages in French to force him to translate and start learning. When you have a player who starts taking French lessons as soon as he arrives, and insists on having two or three every week, someone who eats quickly so he can squeeze in a lesson in before training, in order to understand the coach, then you realise that this is a good man and someone who knows what he wants. The first time I saw Tomas he shook my hand and said ‘bonjour je m’appelle Tomas, pleased to meet you’ and he said it in French not in English.”
Rennes coach Sabri Lamouchi has been impressed: "He’s an intelligent boy, who understands and speaks French already." Defender Jeremy Gelin added: "He loves to joke about and he tries to say funny words. We have a laugh. He’s a real personality."
Koubek was thrown in at the deep-end, playing his first game away to Marseille just five days after arriving. Olivier Sorin tried ensure the debutant would be able to issue the necessary instructions to his defenders. Sorin said: "We prepared a list of words in English and French, football terms in order to accelerate the learning process.”
And Koubek proved a fast learner, telling us: "Seul is you are alone, donne, give me the pass, laisse is the same like j’ai, I have the ball, gauche, droite, left right, reviens, sortez… going up and reviens is come back. I think it’s good."
Koubek passed his first test with flying colours, producing a commanding performance and helping Rennes seal a stunning 3-1 win: "I was so nervous because it was first game. We was lucky because we scored in two minutes and ten minutes I think."
Three months on, and Koubek has firmly established himself as Rennes' number one. Already a fans' favourite, the current Czech international is also popular in the dressing room.
Wahbi Khazri said: "He's been decisive often for us. I hope he'll continue because we'll need him if we’re to have a good season and finish high up the table."
This weekend, Rennes play host to PSG, and their giant Czech can’t wait to test himself against Cavani, Neymar and the rest: "They are the biggest club in France, the biggest in the world, they have special players especially in attack. I would like to know my real power, if I can play against the best. I'm looking forward to this."
So the big question now is have Rennes really found themselves a new Petr Cech? Sorin said: "If Tomas does as well as Petr Cech did during his two seasons at Rennes, I think he’d be happy with that. I wish him the same career but it’s up to him, it’s in his hands."