Thibaut Courtois had some things to get off of his chest on Friday.
The first was a sense of vindication. Last season was a rough one for the big man, the lowlight being Messi nutmegging him for a goal in the Champions League not once, but twice. Criticisms were swift, broad, heavy, and only aided by the uncertainty surrounding his Chelsea future.
Apparently, Courtois has been listening. On Friday he proved why he’s still one of the world’s top goalkeepers, delivering a match-saving performance against Brazil, including this wonderful stop on Neymar. Very Jordan Pickford-like, if you will. (That’s called foreshadowing.)
After the match, Thibaut unburdened himself of his angst.
“I know Neymar likes to curl it that way, I was ready and made a good save. I have been unfairly criticised a lot this year, today I proved again who I am and why I am here.
“Our tactical plan was great. We felt it was our day. It is a childhood dream to be in the World Cup. It’s incredible. This team wants to win every game, against England people said it was better to lose but we won the game, we have confidence in our team.”
-Thibaut Courtois; source: beIN Sports
Some might say Courtois has rabbit ears and shouldn’t listen to fans and media. That he’s being whiny. In truth, it’s impossible for players to avoid the scuttlebutt, it’s omnipresent on a big club.
And as for being whiny ... well, this is kind of the equivalent of a boxer pounding his chest after a knockout. He knows he’s good and he’s reminding the world of it. It’s athletic ego. It may be obnoxious but no great athlete can prosper without an outsize helping of self-belief.
Now, about those rabbit ears. Because Courtois doesn’t live in a cave, he also heard the criticism of his comment that Jordan Pickford was 10cm too short to save Adnan Januzaj‘s shot in Belgium’s 1-0 victory over England in the group stage. Daddy Thierry even waded-in to defend his boy, giving a counter-argument that amounted to little more than “it was just banter”.
On Friday, Courtois himself wanted everyone to know that it was all just a big misunderstanding.
“Can I say one more thing?
“This thing about Jordan... I want to clarify it because I heard a lot of stuff. I never mocked his height, I want to make that clear. I would never mock the height of a goalkeeper - I think that he’s a great goalkeeper, he proved that last year.
“I only said that because he got a touch, maybe I would have saved it because I’m 15cm* taller than him - I never mocked his height because I know he’s a great goalkeeper. I want to make that clear!”
-Thibaut Courtois; source: Goal
And in his own words, reflecting after the monumental win...
OK, so questions about his ability put to rest, right? Controversy over Pickford done and dusted, right? Nah. Pretty soon Thibaut will say something to get emotions all riled up again. It’s just how he is and how his audience is. Still, should we really be in that much of a hurry to replace him at great cost with the man who was in the opposite goal on Friday?
*Ed.note: wait, wasn’t he only 10cm taller earlier? LOL.