Thibaut Courtois is famously outspoken, sometimes to a degree that makes his Chelsea admirers nervous. He may be injured and coming home from Belgium duty — international duty that often frees players up for additional media appearances — but not before he granted Flemish-language sports outlet Sporza an extensive interview in which he, typically, did not hold back.
It’s kind of fun, actually. Sit back, grab a brew or a vin rouge, and enjoy the highlights.
First up, Louis van Gaal taking potshots at him after getting nutmegged twice in Barcelona. This is what van Gaal said:
“The game was turned upside down due to the blunder of Courtois [for Messi’s first goal] which I think is a big blunder. If he’d have had [Dutch former Manchester United goalkeeping coach] Frans Hoek as goalkeeper coach, he would have closed his legs.
“That just should not be allowed to happen.”
-Louis van Gaal; source: Ziggo Sport via Goal
Thibaut has admitted he was at fault for the first goal and says his height makes it difficult for him to stop the nutmegs. He said so again to Sporza...
“In Barcelona that first goal was my fault and the other two goals came after a bad pass.”
... but he snapped back anyway at Van Gaal, who famously substituted his goalkeeper for a penalty shootout at a World Cup once (and it worked!).
“When I hear so-called experts talking, I do not think they know anything about goalkeeping. For example, Van Gaal does not talk about goalkeepers. I know I am doing well and I am growing to my top form for the World Cup.”
Is he right? Goalkeeper statistics are tricky things because so much depends on how the the men in front of him are playing. But in pure numbers, he’s letting in about a goal per game in all competitions (40 in 39), a total that is already a Chelsea-career high — although not nearly as bad as in 2015-16, when he gave up 38 in just 30 games. Those two seasons are the only two since 2011 (i.e. since signing with Chelsea), that he’s averaged over a goal-per-game conceded. So, Courtois may be playing well, but he can do better, which he does acknowledge ... though it sure would’ve been nice to see him in top form already against Barcelona for example.
Those numbers could go some ways towards explaining why media coverage has soured a bit on his talents, in marked contrast to the acclaim he got in Madrid or during Chelsea’s title-winning seasons of the past few years.
“As a player, you can be hyped, an ordinary save suddenly became a fantastic salvation. I think that I am still making good saves, but that gets less attention (now) and I can hardly break that (new, negative) perception.”
Part of the negativity is his ongoing contract negotiation. He wants it done with as much as anyone...
“I think that’s the biggest factor in all that (negativity) I get over me now, and those speculations about my future certainly play a role.”
... but he’s tired of the coverage. A swift kick to the shins, anyone?
“There are many PR contacts nowadays, there are many lines. Sometimes I stamp their shins because I am tired of talking about my future.”
But right after that, encouraging words.
“I have one year (remaining on his) contract and feel good at Chelsea, and at the end of the season we sit down together and set a good vision. I live there quietly and know that I will be at Chelsea next year as well.
“If I go to the World Cup with a clear idea, sign or wait another year, I have a free head at the World Cup. I am still proud to play at Chelsea and I want to achieve success.”
That’s more like it!
Most stories in this international break eventually get around to the next match. That’s because it’s huge. Tottenham currently have their paws (chicken feet?) on the all-important fourth place that Chelsea want and the gap is five points. It’s not an understatement to say that this one game could determine our chances of being in the Champions League next season. That’s how Thibaut sees it too.
“Next week against Tottenham is perhaps the most important match at the moment, but if we do not win, it will be difficult to make up for the difference.”
And he wants to play in the Champions League. Like, he really wants to.
“Playing with that star-patterned ball and letting the pitch come up with that (Champions League) hymn, that’s the best moments for a footballer, you do not want to miss that.”
-Thibaut Courtois; source: Sporza
Well, there’s one way to help that cause along. How about a one-match goals-allowed-per-90-minutes that reads 0.00? Sprinkle with a little Eden or Willian magic. Then sit back, stick a microphone in front of our outspoken ‘keeper, and enjoy the results!