It would be easy to blame Thibaut Courtois alone for this fiasco, but as much as his methods are reprehensible, the underlying motivation for wanting to be back in Madrid is understandable.
He’s always talked about his children, so we knew that was a factor. But at the same time he maintained that he’d happily play out the final year of his contract at Chelsea and then leave next summer instead. By holding out and pushing for his move now, he’s suddenly reneged on that public stance (promise?), and that’s certainly contributed to the overwhelmingly negative reaction to this news.
But the fact that Chelsea have let the situation devolve this far isn’t Courtois’s fault. That we have no succession or at least a contingency plan in place (don’t think Bułka counts) is unbelievable as it’s been clear for quite some time that Courtois was highly unlikely to extend his contract. That the club have been “not sure what to do” ever since Alisson signed for Liverpool (with Chelsea barely making a play on him, mind you), is just hilarious — that happened almost three weeks ago, soon after the World Cup ended.
#cfc have been looking at a number of targets this summer to replace #Courtois. #Alisson was their first and main choice. Since missing out to #Lfc, they have not been sure what to do. #Butland was way down the list but now a real possibility. Window closes in 3 days.— Simon Johnson (@sjstandardsport) August 6, 2018
And speaking of the World Cup’s end, apparently that’s how long Real Madrid’s €40m offer (with bonuses included) has been sitting in Chelsea’s inbox, as if we needed another sign. But if we did, we also had Courtois’ agent publicly warning the club to accept the bid last week. And, according to Kristof Terreur, Courtois even called Sarri last week to tell him what’s what. Granted, it was not face-to-face like the old man prefers, but surely Sarri didn’t just completely disregard it as a prank call.
Thibaut Courtois had a phone call with Maurizio Sarri last week, in which he expressed his desire to leave for Real to be closer to his children. #cfc— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) August 7, 2018
So, here we are, with less than 60 hours to go in the transfer window, scrambling to find a replacement. Must be another deadline day coming up at Panic Buy FC.
Real Madrid have tabled an offer of +/- £35m for Thibaut Courtois. Chelsea working hard on finding a replacement for the AWOL GK - although Real are pushing since the last week of the World Cup. #cfc pic.twitter.com/Yw35IAvWYT— Kristof Terreur (@HLNinEngeland) August 7, 2018
Can we find a replacement in time? While Caballero does have the first letter thing going for him (Cudicini —> Cech —> Courtois) and Bułka may turn out excellent in the future, chances are we need a new signing.
Jack Butland appears the likeliest and is the only target whose manager has publicly acknowledged the possibility of him leaving. Sevilla’s Sergio Rico is a new name mentioned since the Courtois news broke yesterday, while reports in Spain claim that Chelsea are willing to activate Kepa’s €80m release clause.
The latter solution would certainly serve notice that Chelsea remain prepared to solve problems by throwing money at it, which is perhaps preferable to spending less but on inferior solutions — when it says to drink water in an emergency, it’s meant literally. At this point, Chelsea would be overpaying for anyone, be that Butland at £25m or Kepa at €80m.
(As far as the Courtois end of the deal, we have until August 31 to complete his transfer to Real Madrid.)