Thibaut Courtois

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Courtois suffers ankle sprain

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Thibaut Courtois could miss the rest of Real Madrid’s preseason after suffering an injury in training.

Real Madrid announced that Courtois suffered a grade two ankle sprain, though they did not specify a timetable for his return. According to the American Academy of Orthapedic Surgeons, a grade two ankle sprain involves a partial ligament tear in the ankle and could necessitate an air-cast or walking boot to immobilize the ankle. Considering the seriousness, it’s clear that Courtois will be out of training for at least a week or two as the ankle swelling goes down and can heal, before he can return to full training.

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Courtois was predictably left off Real Madrid’s traveling party to Munich where it will face Tottenham in the semifinals of the Audi Cup on Tuesday at the Allianz Arena.

Perhaps ironically, Zinedine Zidane, who was always looking to replace Costa Rica National Team idol Keylor Navas, will now have to start Navas in preseason matches and potentially the start of the La Liga season, should Courtois need more time to recover.

Courtois was forced to pick the ball out of the net seven times last Friday as Real Madrid was trounced by Atletico Madrid at MetLife Stadium, 7-3. Considering how Real Madrid hasn’t done a major defensive upgrade – just signing youngsters Eder Militao and Ferland Mendy – Courtois and Navas could have another tough season facing a lot of opponent shots.

Meanwhile further up the field, there’s more drama in the Real Madrid squad. According to Diario AS, James Rodriguez has been told that he won’t be sold this summer after vying for a permanent move away from Real Madrid.

Rodriguez has spent the last two seasons on loan at Bayern Munich but after the Bavarians didn’t exercise their purchase option on Rodriguez, he has returned to Real Madrid in a tough spot. Real Madrid may have allowed him to leave before the preseason trip to the U.S., but now with Marco Asensio set to miss the season with a torn ACL, Madrid want to keep Rodriguez around for depth.

Courtois wants ‘close friend’ Hazard at Real Madrid

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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)

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

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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.