London - Petr Cech ended his trophy-filled, 11-year stay at Chelsea by signing for Premier League rival Arsenal on Monday, with the goalkeeper reluctantly deciding to leave the English champions after losing his starting place.
In another major coup in the transfer market, Arsenal bought the 33-year-old Cech for a reported fee of about £11 million after Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich granted the Czech Republic international the chance to revive his career while staying in the Premier League.
"I thought this would never happen," Cech said in an open letter to Chelsea fans, "but it is time for me to say goodbye to Chelsea. The club I have lived every single minute for since joining in July 2004, the club in which I thought I'd hang my gloves and boots one day and finish my career.
"But life doesn't always turn out the way you think it will."
Cech's debut for Arsenal could come against Chelsea on August 2 in the FA Community Shield— the traditional curtain-raiser in the English season between the league champions and FA Cup winners of the previous campaign.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has secured the high-profile signings of Mesut Ozil and Alexis Sanchez in the last two offseasons, and Cech's arrival could help the north London club move a step closer to a first Premier League title since 2004.
Goalkeeper has been a problem area for Arsenal in recent years, and Cech is the most authoritative and experienced keeper the club has had since Jens Lehmann or even David Seaman further back.
"Petr Cech is a player that I have admired for a long time and I am very pleased that he has decided to join us," Wenger said.
"He has proven over many seasons that he is one of the outstanding keepers in the world and he will add great strength to our squad."