Where should Chelsea and Courtois go from here?
Should Chelsea have spent all that money on a teenage goalkeeper when they did? Are Chelsea a club who are really in desperate need of another talent in goal? Added backup for Petr Cech was always necessary, but the Czech international isn’t anywhere near the twilight of his playing career. And even with the competition that Thibaut Courtois would bring, both goalkeepers are far too good to warm the bench for an extended period of time.
It will bring about much lengthier debate later on this year; Courtois’ loan with Atletico Madrid will expire and his parent club will reach a point where the decision is made to keep their experienced no 1 or go with the best young goalkeeper in La Liga.
Naturally the idea would be to send the player back to Atletico for a third season; it’s certainly something which could sweeten a potential deal in their chase for Radamel Falcao. But then what? Cech is 30 and Courtois is 20. Is it really ideal for any party to keep the loan deals flowing for the next five years at least? Clubs like Atletico will benefit of course, but at which point do Chelsea really go all in on the teenager they spent such a large sum of money on?
It would have seemed impossible that Atletico would end up with a goalkeeper to rival the talents of the departed David de Gea. But after 18 months with the club, there is plenty of evidence to suggest Courtois is the better talent than the current Manchester United keeper.
But if Chelsea decide that the player is good enough and has advanced well enough at a big club to be an asset now, why would Courtois want to play second fiddle after two potentially fantastic seasons? He’s won the Europa League and there’s the possibility he could be a starting goalkeeper in the Champions League next year—that’s if Chelsea agree to let him return to Spain again.
It’s a headache every club would love to have, I’m sure. Chelsea are as good as set in terms of goalkeeping talent for the next 15 years and with a youngster who already knows what it means to play in the big time. There is only one outcome that everyone would want: both players at the club and rotating for the starting spot. But that’s not realistic. That’s not what either goalkeeper wants and both are too good to enter into an agreement like that. Cech will remain aware that as a goalkeeper he is in his best years; Courtois, on the other hand, will be keen to go where his development is not disrupted.
So again I ask, why did Chelsea go after Courtois and for a fee just under £10 million?
Is it possible that the club did not foresee Courtois’ rapid rise? Is it possible that the intention was always to bring him back after a couple of loan spells and have him as backup and understudy to Cech? Of course. It would have been the natural idea of easing the younger player into the fold and preparing for life after the more experienced figure moves on. But that isn’t the case.
It would be an extremely bold move for the club and specifically for the manager at the time to bring in the Belgian as the undisputed no 1. It would be one of the bravest moves any manager could make at a club like Chelsea.
Real Madrid know the player’s worth, as do Barcelona and of course Atletico. Any of them would love to take the for player next season and beyond if Chelsea’s potential indecisiveness puts Courtois off.
For this one, the current European champions might need to look past the matter of age for both players and even what Cech has helped to bring them in the past. Courtois has played a mammoth role in helping Atletico to second in the league table. He’s the reason the club have one of the best defensive records in La Liga. He’s thus far been the most impressive goalkeeper in the whole of the top-flight in Spain, holding that place ahead of Malaga’s Willy Caballero. He will undoubtedly be one of the best goalkeepers in the world in a few years. Chelsea have done well to look to their past for success in recent seasons, but they’ll be kicking themselves if they allow this youngster to slip through the net at the expense of one of the older heads.
I’m sure both the player and Atletico would love for them to continue their relationship for a third and possibly final season next year, and that may suit Chelsea best as well. But after that, after another starring role at the Vicente Calderon, Chelsea simply must look to the Courtois as their no 1.