Thibaut Courtois

Getty Images

Courtois wants ‘close friend’ Hazard at Real Madrid

Leave a comment

Thibaut Courtois isn’t shy about who he hopes Real Madrid brings in this summer.

The Belgian shot-stopper told French television channel RMC Sport that he hopes that his Belgian teammate Eden Hazard makes his way to the Bernabeu this offseason, saying that the two are tightly knit on and off the field.

“I don’t know his future, and I don’t know if the club wants to sign him, but he is one of my closest friends in football, so I want him to come here,” Courtois said.

The two spent six seasons together with Chelsea, with Hazard joining in 2011 from French club Lille while Courtois came over a year later from Belgian side Genk. They have both also played together numerous times for the Belgian national team, including a pair of World Cup journeys in 2014 and 2018. Hazard has exactly 100 caps for Belgium, while Courtois has 72.

There’s been plenty of speculation surrounding Hazard’s future at Chelsea of late. His contract at Stamford Bridge runs through the summer of 2020, making this summer the perfect time for him to make the switch. There’s been little talk of him signing a new contract at Chelsea, increasing the possibility of his departure.

Courtois’ future at Madrid is no sure thing, however. With the return of Zinedine Zidane, Courtois has been benched in favor of Keylor Navas. Courtois has been shaky at times this season as Madrid sits third in the La Liga table, making way yet again for Barcelona to run away with the league title. After joining just this past summer, his contract runs through 2024, but should Navas stay as the starter for the forseeable future, it’s possible Courtois becomes frustrated with his role.

Schone’s marvel puts nail in Real Madrid’s coffin (video)

AP Photo/Bernat Armangue
Leave a comment

Lasse Schone, mic drop.

Ajax’s 32-year-old midfielder fooled Thibaut Courtois with a stunning, curling free kick to give Ajax it’s fourth away goal of Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League second leg at Real Madrid.

[ MORE: Vinicius injured ]

He was promptly subbed off the pitch.

The bearded Danish veteran spun the kick over the reach of Courtois, who had taken steps off his line in anticipation of a clipped cross.

It was Schone’s 270th appearance for the Dutch powers.

Bale’s introverted personality beginning to spill over at Real Madrid

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Gareth Bale has been a lightning rod for Real Madrid fans over the last few years, constantly sparking debate on whether his play on the pitch is good, bad, or somewhere in between. It seems nobody can agree on the degree of contribution he provides to the club since he joined in 2013.

On one hand, Bale has scored a plethora of goals in all competitions, many of them critical. Most notably, he scored a stunning bicycle kick goal to win the Champions League last season, downing Liverpool in one jaw-dropping swoop. Just this past weekend, Bale bagged the penalty that gave Real Madrid a comeback win at Levante to avoid what would have been an embarrassing La Liga result.

Conversely, Bale is constantly a scapegoat for the lows the club faces throughout the year, with fans complaining that he has never truly meshed with the rest of the Spanish squad. To this point, those wishing to disparage his play on the field as a bigger issue Bale has with the squad had little proof to back up their argument. Now, some of those perceived character issues are beginning to spill out both on the field and in the dressing room.

On Sunday, after coming off the bench to score the winner from the spot, Bale did not celebrate his goal, actively shrugging off Lucas Vazquez to return the ball to the midway line for a restart of play. He acknowledged Nacho, Dani Carvajal and Raphael Varane as they came to celebrate, but nothing more than a slap of hands.

That was the first real time Bale’s rumored introverted personality has spilled onto the pitch. Recently, players have begun to joke in the media about Bale’s poor relationship with the rest of the squad. Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, in an interview with Belgian publication HLN in early February, joked about Bale failing to join the rest of the squad for a late team dinner, saying it was past his bedtime. “The other night we had a dinner with the entire squad,” Courtois said. “But Bale and [Toni] Kroos did not turn up. They considered the dinner was too late at night. We had met up at 9:30 and started eating at 10:15. But Bale didn’t come. He told us he goes to bed at 11:00.”

While there’s absolutely nothing wrong with a professional athlete who adheres to a strict bedtime, that was a slight window into how the rest of the squad views Bale’s personality. More damaging has been Bale’s love for golf, which has given media critics plenty of ammo in recent months. Local tabloids jumped all over Bale when he arrived at Levante’s stadium watching golf on his phone, and there are rumblings that Bale has earned the dressing room nickname “the Golfer” which Courtois seemed to confirm in his interview.

“It’s very hard to describe Bale in one word,” Courtois said in his chat with HLN. That’s honestly the best way to describe the Welsh international, and the best way to describe the descriptions of him as well. The criticisms of the 29-year-old all seem to be wildly excessive in a vacuum, but put together, it’s easier to see why his lack of togetherness with the rest of the squad may contribute to his early exit from the Bernabeu despite his numerous on-field contributions during his stay in Spain.

Reports: Manchester United readying a De Gea extension

Getty Images
Leave a comment

According to a number of reports, including ESPN and the BBC, Manchester United is preparing a contract extension for goalkeeper David De Gea that the club expects him to sign.

The ESPN report states that de Gea is moving towards committing his future to Old Trafford after Real Madrid – a team long rumored to covet the Spaniard – moved for Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. Despite Madrid’s heavy, long-term interest in de Gea, the move for Courtois makes perfect sense given both his lower cost (thanks to his dire contractual situation at Chelsea) and age.

[ MORE: PL Week 1 player power rankings ]

De Gea famously came inches from a move to Real Madrid in the summer of 2015, only for a broken fax machine to scupper the deal up against the transfer deadline. After that failed transaction, he signed a new contract with Manchester United. Now, three years later, he is in the final year of his contract and both he and the club must make a decision on his future soon.

According to The Guardian, de Gea will receive a significant increase to his salary that will earn him nearly $12 million a year.

At 27 years old, de Gea is just entering the typical peak seasons for a goalkeeper. However, he was less than impressive at the 2018 World Cup as Spain bowed out early in the knockout round.

The ESPN report states that the extension would be for five years, which would theoretically keep him at Old Trafford through the summer of 2023 and would earn him a testimonial after being with the club for over 10 seasons.

Official: Chelsea sends Courtois to Madrid, signs Kepa for record fee

Getty Images

It truly is the summer of goalkeepers.

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois is officially headed to Real Madrid after the Blues confirmed they have reached an agreement on for his transfer.

According to the official club release, written in obnoxiously large font, Courtois still must agree to personal terms with Madrid and complete a medical. In the other direction comes midfielder Mateo Kovacic on a season-long loan, bolstering Chelsea’s already strong midfield ranks. Kovacic must also complete a medical to rubber stamp the deal.

Reports over the last few days have suggested that Chelsea would block Courtois’s move to Madrid, despite pleas from his agent, with the club failing in its search for a replacement. Now, the transfer is a reality.

Coming to the Blues in the other direction is rising Croatian talent Kovacic, who fits in nicely to the Chelsea midfield and could play an important role in the buildup-based system new manager Mauricio Sarri plans to implement. The midfield ranks are crowded, with Ngolo Kante, Cesc Fabregas, Jorginho, Ross Barkley, Tiemoue Bakayoko and Danny Drinkwater all on the roster, although Bakayoko has been the subject of loan rumors of late.

Hours later, Chelsea announced the signing of Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao for a fee of $92 million, a record for a goalkeeper that breaks Liverpool’s signing of Alisson earlier this window. The 23-year-old comes highly rated, yet highly inexperienced. He has just 53 top flight appearances in his career between an earlier loan at Real Valladolid and this past season with the Athletic senior side.

All of this also has a major effect on incumbent Real Madrid starter Keylor Navas, who has won three straight Champions League titles with Los Blancos. The Costa Rican is well-liked in Madrid, but with so many top goalkeepers linked to the club over the past few windows, it seems as if Florentino Perez has been trying to replace him for years.