He was named "Dutch Goalkeeper Of The Year" for his impressive performances in the Eredivisie that season, becoming the first non-Dutch goalkeeper to win the award. He would retain the award again the following season.
Renowned for his bravery and strong reflexes, Dudek attracted interest from many of Europe's elite but it was in 2001 when he finally decided to leave Rotterdam for the lure of the Merseyside giants Liverpool F.C.. He played his final game for Feyenoord on 26th August 2001, against Ajax.
His early form was impressive, garnering praise from pundits and press alike and although Liverpool couldn't capitalise on their successes the previous season, a 2nd place finish in the Premier League was an encouraging sign of progress at the club. Dudek was later nominated alongside Oliver Kahn and Gianluigi Buffon for UEFA Goalkeeper of the Year (season 2001/02).
The renewed title hopes were shortlived. Liverpool were much below par the next season, and unfortunately Dudek took some of the blame. A poor World Cup in the summer did not help his confidence and a high-profile howler that contributed to a home defeat against Manchester United blotted his copy-book. It was going to take something special for Dudek to redeem himself in the eyes of the fans and a man-of-the-match performance in the Worthington Cup Final triumph over United later that season went some way towards that. He made several top class saves from the United side that day as Liverpool won 2-0 against their great rivals. Dudek was duly awarded the "The Alan Hardaker Trophy" as Man Of The Match .
However he wasn't back to his brilliant best as his form became erratic. The mistakes in high profile games didn't disappear and Kirkland was given a stake to claim the Number 1 spot in the following seasons. Luck was on Dudek's side as Kirkland suffered recurring injuries that gave Dudek his chance to redeem himself. He was eventually forgiven by the Liverpool fans for that misdemeanour against their bitter rivals in 2002 but when he made a similar error in the same fixture three years later it seemed as though his reputation would be permanently stained.
It was not until the 2004/05 season reached the most dramatic of climaxes, however, that his past sins were finally forgotten.
Dudek was a prominent figure in Liverpools Road to Istanbul in the knockout stages. In the "Round Of 16" tie against Bayer Leverkusen, Dudek made many top class saves but a last minute rebound strike from França raised doubts once more. Liverpool progressed however and Dudek became a reliable figure in goal. He would only concede one more goal until the final after that mistake at Anfield that night. He gave two solid performances in the semi-final against Chelsea as Liverpool progressed to the final on a 1-0 aggregate scoreline.
The first half performance from Liverpool in the Champions League final against AC Milan was poor and the Italians took full advantage. Their 3 goal cushion couldn't be blamed on Dudek as the Rossoneri looked unstoppable. After making an early save from a Milan free kick, Dudek watched on in amazement as his team-mates fought back to make it 3-3. The scoreline remained the same and the game went into extra time.
The two periods of extra time passed without much incident until the final minutes, when a memorable moment in Champions League history occurred. Serginho, a second half subsitute, crossed the ball into the Liverpool penalty area. Andriy Shevchenko connected with the ball with his head and although Dudek managed to stop it, the ball bounced out of his grasp and back to Shevchenko. One of the most renowned strikers in the World bore down on goal and he hammered his foot into the ball. Dudek managed to get to his knees and put his hands up to block, the ball rebounding over the bar for a corner. Shevchenko couldn't believe it and Dudek, along with thousands of Liverpool fans that night, felt it was destiny. His stunning double reflex save from Shevchenko when the score was tied at 3-3 has deservedly gone down as one of the greatest saves ever. The game finished that way and it went to a penalty shoot-out.
Before the shoot-out began, Jamie Carragher rushed over to Dudek and frantically began to tell him about Bruce Grobbelaar and his "spaghetti legs" antics in the 1984 European Cup Final shoot-out between Liverpool & Roma. He urged him to do the same, and Dudek went to the goal for the first Milan penalty. Dudek had his own ideas although he did do as Carragher suggested with antics that were later commented on more as "jelly legs". He had been told to grasp the ball before giving it to the opposing player to put pressure on it. It may have had an effect as Serginho blasted his effort over the bar while Dudek guessed the right way. The next Milan player to step up was Andrea Pirlo, Dudek dived well to save his penalty although his movement off the line raised question. Both Dietmar Hamann & Djibril Cisse scored for Liverpool to make 2-0 in the shoot-out. Kaka & Jon Dahl Tomasson scored for Milan while Vladimir Smicer scored for Liverpool. At 3-2, Shevchenko needed to score his penalty to keep Milan in the shoot-out. He hit his penalty in the middle but Dudek managed to get his left hand to the ball to save it and win the European Cup for Liverpool.
It was going to take something special for Dudek to redeem himself, but his goalkeeping heroics that helped secure a never-to-be-forgotten fifth European Cup triumph at the Ataturk Stadium, ensured not only forgiveness, but that his name will forever be etched in Liverpudlian folklore.
Dudek was once again, nominated by the UEFA, together with Petr Cech and Gianluigi Buffon for the best goalkeeper in Europe (season 2004/05) award.
However, despite the heroics of that night in May, he lost his place in the starting line up to new signing Jose Manuel Reina the next season. Dudek made just 12 more appearances in the first team and he was deemed surplus to requirements at Liverpool, he was signed on a free transfer by Real Madrid.
It is respected amongst the supporters of Liverpool that he'll always be looked upon in the highest esteem by everyone connected to the club.
It was February 1998 when Dudek won his first cap, in a friendly against Israel. He was a member the 2002 Polish World Cup squad but its one World Cup the Poles would want to forget as they exited in the group stage. The top goalkeeper in Poland for many years, his lack of appearances for Liverpool contributed to his loss of the Number 1 jersey in the Polish National side to Artur Boruc. He failed to make the 2006 World Cup squad as a result. He has earned 58 caps for Poland.
He was captain on one occasion, in a friendly game agains Estonia in Ostrowiec Świętokrzyski.
In 2004, Pope John Paul II, who played football as a goalkeeper during his youth in Poland, met members of the Polish squad. It was at this time he told Dudek that he was a great fan of his and followed Liverpool whenever they played. Dudek attributed his performance and strength in Champions League final to Pope John Paul II. He had sadly passed away a month earlier and Dudek dedicated the victory in his memory.
Dudek also has a brother, Dariusz, who is a footballer as well.
In 2005, he received the title of the honourable citizen of Knurów, during a organised charity match "Jerzy Dudek & Friends". He also made his debut as a TV commentator that year, in TVP (Polish tv), covering the 2005 Super Cup Final between Liverpool and CSKA Moscow. Dudek was injured and could not play that night.
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