A club wanting possibly its best goalkeeper available for games would normally get filed under “Gee, you think,” but Chelsea has been fine with Belgian international Thibaut Courtois spending the last three seasons in Spain. In that time, the 21-year-old has become a key part of Atletico Madrid’s rise to UEFA Champions League’s finals, in the process building a reputation as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. At some point, it’s time to come home.
That point may be this summer, if Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has his way. According to reporting from the Guardian, the Blues’ boss, as part of a year-end report he is preparing, will recommend the Atleti number one return to his parent club:
The Portuguese, who has been working on the report over the past few weeks, will also detail the tweaks he would like made to his squad in the close season and will argue for Thibaut Courtois to return to his parent club after three years on loan at Atlético Madrid. Mourinho expects to meet the club’s hierarchy this month to discuss his suggestions as the Londoners seek to strengthen before another title challenge next season.
Mourinho emphasized the decision is not his alone, though it’s difficult to imagine others at the club blocking Courtois’s return. The bigger stumbling block will be the extent to which the young Belgian even sees himself as a Chelsea player anymore. Particularly if he wins a European (or, Spanish) title with Atletico, it could prove difficult to turn his back on a club where he’s become a star.
Ultimately, however, the point may be moot. If, hypothetically, Courtois preferred to stay in Spain, Chelsea still has to agree to a sale. Atletico still has to be able to afford him (more likely, given the new revenues that will be coming in), and the two clubs will need to agree on a price. Given his age, accomplishments, and likely club-friendly deal Chelsea, Courtois’ price will be considerable.
The other angle here is Petr Cech’s. The long-time Chelsea keeper is currently shelved with a shoulder injury, but he’ll be back by late July. While many would argue that Courtois is the better keeper, Cech is proven in the Premier League. Despite success in La Liga, Manchester United’s David de Gea had trouble making the transition from Atletico to England. Maybe there’s an argument that a title-contending team should stick with the proven keeper?
This may not be an either-or. Chelsea may keep Cech as part of its transition to Courtois. Regardless, if Courtois is brought back, it will signal the coming end of Cech’s time at Stamford Bridge, whether that’s this summer or next. Still only 31, Cech could still fetch a decent fee if he were sold in August.