Believe it or not, one of Chelsea’s most valuable assets has yet to play a single minute for the Blues.
Sound crazy? That’s because it is. And that’s also why earlier today Chelsea slapped a $30 million price tag on goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
The Belgian netminder arrived at Stamford Bridge on a $10.5 million transfer fee in 2011 as a project and potential replacement for Petr Cech. He was immediately loaned out to Atletico Madrid where he’s spent the last two successive seasons. Last year he proved himself to be one of the best in La Liga. This season he’s been downright filthy.
Courtois leads La Liga in goals conceded (24) and clean sheets (15). Even more incredible is that a little over a week ago the 20 year old set a new Atletico club record of 820 minutes without conceding a goal at the Estadio Vicente Calderon. For those of you without an abacus handy that’s the equivalent of just over nine games with a clean sheet. The feat has raised Courtois to cult-hero status among Colchoneros supporters and its management, which now faces a fierce battle to sign the keeper, or, at the least, to extend his loan spell.
The situation leaves Chelsea in one of those ‘good problems to have’ predicaments. Cech remains one of the greatest keepers to ever play the game and, at the age of 30, is having yet another world-class season between the pipes. The problem is that Cech’s contract at Stamford Bridge expires in 2016, which is precisely the same year when Courtois’ contract expires. Ahhhh decisions, decisions.
By setting Courtois’ price tag at $30 million – a value derived from Manchester United’s $28.5 million purchase of David de Gea from Atletico two years ago – Chelsea have made the first move in a chess match that promises to captivate the football masses. Expect multiple clubs, especially those with deep, oil rich pockets, to get in on the action to sign the 6’6″ Courtois.
But at the end of the day, it’s Atletico who hold the trump card that tickles Roman Abramovich’s fancy the most.
Helloooo, Radamel Falcao.
Jadon Sancho made history for English players in Germany thanks to a little help from an American teenager.
Christian Pulisic dribbled free from a pack of would-be tacklers to cue up the ex-Manchester City player for a finish against Bayer Leverkusen in the 13th minute of a match at the Westfalenstadion on Saturday.
[ MORE: Klopp rips West Brom ]
Sancho just turned 18 on March 25, and becomes the youngest English goal scorer in Bundesliga history having entered the match with one assist in 415 Bundesliga minutes.
As for 19-year-old Pulisic, the USMNT prodigy has five goals and seven assists in 39 matches across all competitions this season.
Paul Pogba made amends for an early marking error that led to a Spurs opener by setting up Alexis Sanchez’s equalizer as Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur are tied at 1 after 45 minutes of their FA Cup semifinal at Wembley Stadium.
[ LIVE: Updates from Wembley ]
Spurs went ahead through Dele, as Pogba lost Christian Eriksen as the Dane raced onto a long ball. Eriksen crossed to the back post for Dele’s sliding finish.
Pogba made amends in his preferred third of the pitch, stealing the ball from a Mousa Dembele and lofting an inch-perfect cross for Alexis to nod home. The headed finish was anything but easy, hit across the goal while falling to the pitch.
It’s one-and-done for Sunderland in the Championship, though not in the way expected by most supporters of the Black Cats.
[ RECAP: WBA 2-2 Liverpool ]
Relegated from the Premier League under David Moyes‘ guidance last season, Sunderland lost Saturday to leave them six points back of safety with two to play.
But either Burton Albion or Bolton will get at least a point from a match against each other, meaning Sunderland would need at least seven when all is said and done.
- Twenty-one clubs have been relegated since the start of the 2010-11 season.
- Six have sunk as low as League One (including Sunderland)
- Seven returned to the Premier League (including Wolves for 18-19)
- Ten are currently in the Championship
It’s a message to all Premier League sides expecting favorite status in the Championship, including likely relegation side West Bromwich Albion.
Here’s how the most recent sides have fared since dropping out of the top flight.
Relegated sides this decade, and current status
*club still alive for 2018-19 promotion to Premier League
#club could be relegated from current league
Hull City (2016-17) — Championship
Middlesbrough (2016-17) — Championship*
Sunderland (2016-17) — Relegated to League One
Newcastle United (2015-16) — Returned to PL in one season
Norwich City (2015-16) — Championship
Aston Villa (2015-16) — Championship*
Hull City (2014-15) — Promoted at first chance, then relegated last season
Burnley (2014-15) — Promoted at first chance
Queens Park Rangers (2014-15) — Championship
Norwich City (2013-14) — Has since been promoted, relegated back to Championship
Fulham (2013-14) — Championship*
Cardiff City (2013-14) — Championship*
Wigan Athletic (2012-13) — promoted to Championship for 2018-19
Reading (2012-13) — Championship#
Queens Park Rangers (2012-13) — Since promoted, relegated back to Championship
Bolton (2011-12) — Championship#
Blackburn (2011-12) — League One*
Wolves (2011-12) — Promoted to Premier League this season
Birmingham City (2010-11) — Championship#
Blackpool (2010-11) — League One
West Ham United (2010-11) — Promoted at first chance, still PL
Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur clash in the FA Cup semifinal at Wembley on Saturday (12:15 p.m. ET kick off) with both Mauricio Pochettino and Jose Mourinho aiming to keep alive their only remaining hope of winning a trophy this season.
[ LIVE: Updates from Wembley ]
For Spurs, they are certainly used to playing at Wembley after calling it home all season long while their new stadium is completed. Yet Harry Kane and Co. know they will keep hearing about how they need to win a trophy to prove themselves as Spurs have gone 10 years without a piece of silverware.
Mourinho is the master of grinding out wins in these kind of situations but United were dominated by Spurs at Wembley back in January in the PL and were lucky to escape with just a 2-0 defeat.
[ MORE: Minute-by-minute on United v Spurs ]
Click on the links above to follow the action live, while we will have reaction and analysis live from Wembley right here on Pro Soccer Talk.