Despite conceding twice and comically fumbling the ball once, Thibaut Courtois had himself another strong game at the World Cup on Monday, as Belgium produced an epic comeback from two goals down to eliminate Japan on virtually the final kick of the game. In addition to making several good saves, Courtois also launched the game-winning counter after plucking the ball out of the air from Japan’s corner. His domination of the airspace in the penalty area is certainly one of his strong suits.
Another one of his strong suits, as many will tell you, is his ability to talk a lot when asked questions in interviews, often managing to upset people by telling it exactly how it is, or at least how he sees it. For example, he called Jordan Pickford relatively short, which he is, for a goalkeeper, after Belgium’s group game against England. Courtois wasn’t necessarily criticizing Pickford (can’t change his height), but it was still interpreted as such alongside other media criticisms of the England goalkeeper for conceding on what looked like a save-able shot by Adnan Januzaj.
“The goalkeeper is 10cm smaller than me. I would have caught it. He was too busy throwing his legs in the air.”
-Thibaut Courtois; source: Voetball24 via Metro
(The comments that were far more silly in recent times from Courtois were the ones where he questioned the idea that Loris Karius was concussed during the Champions League final.)
In any case, more concerningly for us, Courtois has never made an attempt to hide his affection for Spain, Madrid, and the fact that his children live there and thus he wants to live there as well. Maybe not now, not yet, but soon? We like to live in a sporting world of black and white, or loyalty and disloyalty, and that’s far too much nuance already. And even more concerningly for us, he has yet to sign a contract extension, and with just one year left on his current deal, it’s either time to sign or time to sell this summer.
Asked again about that situation after Belgium’s win yesterday, Courtois reiterated things he’s said before, though he seemingly placed greater emphasis on the family angle than before. It’s an understandable desire, to be closer to his kids, even if it does break the wall that we like to place between our sporting heroes and real life.
“Returning to Madrid? I am not going to speak about my future but after the World Cup I will see. But for me my children are very important, I have always said that, and they live there.
“I don’t only like Madrid, I also like London and they are two great cities. The difference is that my kids are in Madrid, and they have seen the game and they see their father and they want him to be close.
“That is not to say I’m going back, but for me my kids are very important and I will do something to see them more.”
-Thibaut Courtois; source: Independent
Given the prospect of a very busy season coming up at Chelsea with the addition of Europa League matches, there are limited options for the “something” that Courtois may do to see his kids more. Facetime only goes so far, as he’s said many times.
If Courtois does leave, which seems to be way this narrative is trending, Chelsea could look to Roma’s Alisson, Milan’s Gigio Donnarumma, or the likes of Kasper Schmeichel or Jack Butland, in decreasing order of ideality, to replace him.