One of the most interesting problems Jose Mourinho has to solve in his second spell at Chelsea, regarding the progression and evolution of his squad, is just what to do with Thibaut Courtois. The young Belgian, over the course of his two seasons on loan with Atletico in Madrid, under the brilliant Diego Simeone, has rapidly developed from a promising young shot-stopper into an international goalkeeper of the highest echelon; already at just 21 years of age, he is world class.
Unfortunately for him however, he’s owned by a club who also currently employ arguably the best goalkeeper in the world. And at just 31, there’s no reason why an unrivalled Petr Cech couldn’t carry on for another five years, at least. A lot of fans are worried Cech’s age and status will see us miss out on the chance to keep Courtois at the club, whilst I’m sure many others are concerned that an eagerness to progress him will see Cech unfairly moved on, long before his time.
Until this week, the club’s views on how to manage Courtois long-term were somewhat of a mystery. As his side prepare to face Scotland tomorrow night (Friday) however, the young Belgian spoke to journalists from his country’s national paper, La Derniere Heure, and provided some much needed insight into the situation for us worrying fans like us. Since I’ve hardly seen the interview published on any Chelsea related news pages, I thought I’d just put the transcript on here for you all to read:
On Continuing his loan with Atletico for a 3rd season:
“Chelsea and José Mourinho wanted me to return to Stamford Bridge this season, either that or being loaned out to another Premier League cub. However, I preferred to stay in Madrid as I’m happy here and I’ll have a chance to play in the Champions League.”
On Petr Cech:
“I’m not afraid of fighting for my place alongside Petrr Cech as I don’t fear anyone. I am confident in my abilities and I know that Mourinho does not select players based on reputation. That was proved to be the case when he chose Diego Lopez (at Real Madrid) ahead of Casillas when he thought the former player was training harder.”
On the importance of the World Cup:
“It was a toss-up as to whether I returned to Chelsea in the summer. Either I would play regularly which would be great or I wouldn’t play and therefore risk losing my place in the Belgian team. That was too much of a risk in a World Cup year.”
On his plans for next season:
“(After the World Cup) I’ll be more willing to take risks but at the moment I need to keep playing, as do Kevin (De Bruyne) and Romelu (Lukaku). The same logic applies to Christian (Benteke). I’ve known him since he was 16 and he’s made great progress. Now at 22 he must play regularly and that’s why it’s good that he stayed at Aston Villa.”
On Simon Mignolet
“Simon (Mignolet) is going a great job (with Liverpool). I know he wants to be number 1 in Belgium and that just makes me work harder. It’s good to know that if I’m injured or have a run of bad form then there is someone to replace me. But I don’t intend to have a run of bad form!”
In short, even if it was against the preferences of the clubs management, I completely agree with and support the decision Courtois made to stay with Atletico. Given the level of his contribution to their successes of the past two seasons (a Europa League, a Super Cup and a Copa del Rey) he deserves to represent them in the Champions League. His consideration of his place in the National Side in a World Cup year is also perfectly understandable.
The line “I’ll be willing to take more risks next year” suggests to me that this’ll be his final year in Spain for definite, with a return straight back to Chelsea looking most likely. And if that is the case, I don’t want to make any serious predictions however I will say, if I was Petr Cech, I’d enjoy every moment of this season.