With Thibaut Courtois seemingly on his way to Real Madrid in order to be closer to his children, and his ideal replacement, Roma and Brazil stud Alisson, signing with Liverpool for a world record fee, the rumor mill has been casting about in uncertain waters for replacements.
There’s Milan’s Gianluigi Donnarumma, a callow 19-year-old regarded as super-talented but coming off of a disappointing season (and saddled with an agent who’s not on good terms with Chelsea). It gets worse after that with names such as Leicester City’s Kasper Schmeichel, Stoke City’s Jack Butland, no-one-wants-him’s Joe Hart (ouch!), Petr “he’s all Arsenal now” Čech, and even 35 year-old Pepe Reina, who played for Sarri at Napoli but literally just signed a three-year contract at AC Milan less than three weeks ago. The situation is either that desperate or no one really knows what’s going on (or both!). Either way, time is running out.
If this looks a bit familiar, you’re possibly thinking of last January when Chelsea were linked with the likes of Andy Carroll and Peter Crouch before pulling off a minor miracle with a useful signing in Olivier Giroud in the final hours. Or perhaps you’re thinking of three summers ago when champions Chelsea were seeking a new center back and settled for Deadline Day acquisitions Michael Hector and Papy Djilobodji. Not exactly the club’s finest moment and perhaps Michael Emenalo’s low point as Director of Football. Yet here we are, seemingly poised to repeat history.
But unless Chelsea are prepared to forgo compensation for Courtois and let him play out the final year of his contract at Stamford Bridge, a replacement is needed and needed before the season starts. Veteran known quantity Kasper Schmeichel, who shares about as much of his name as his talent with his famous father, Peter, has emerged as perhaps the most agreeable of all the subpar options.
Those rumors acquired added weight yesterday when Leicester completed the signing of Liverpool backup Danny Ward. Leicester paid £12.5m for the 25-year-old, which certainly looks like investment big enough for a new first-choice goalkeeper. But manager Claude Puel trotted out the usual line about “more competition” for the players when asked about Schmeichel’s situation.
“No. There is no problem with this. There is a lot of speculation at this moment, it is normal.
”I think he [Ward] can bring more competition to the squad and more possibilities. It is a good thing to have competition between players in the squad to develop desire. It gives good focus and concentration.”
More to the point, Puel says he wants to keep Schmeichel, who earned rave reviews for Denmark at the World Cup.
“I am not troubled about this.
”Of course Kasper is a very important player for us. He had a very strong World Cup. We need Kasper, with his character, his performance and his consistency.”
-Claude Puel; source: Evening Standard
If he’s that consistent, why does he need increased competition, Claude, why?
It is entirely conceivable that Schmeichel and Ward get along just fine and the Foxes reap the benefits of having two good goalkeepers. It is also entirely conceivable that Courtois ends up signing a new Chelsea deal — kids or no kids, he definitely wants more money, too, which we do have. All options remain on the table. The problem is that the time to make a decision was probably last month, or last year, or at any other point not in the final few weeks of the transfer window.
World Cup Gold Gloves Courtois isn’t due to report back to Chelsea until the final week of preseason, just a few days before the Premier League transfer window closes (5pm BST August 9th). He’s on record as saying he won’t talk about his deal until then, and it will be his first chance for a face-to-face with Sarri as well. We’re going to have to work very hard, and possibly come up with a very creative solution, to avoid another Djilobodji/Hector situation.