With pundits, reporters and supporters all mulling over the future of Thibault Courtois at Chelsea, it may well be that the most definitive portent of where he will be next season is a transfer rumour emanating from the Spanish club Levante.
Spanish news website El Confidencial claims that Atletico Madrid have submitted a for Levante’s Costa Rican keeper Keylor Navas. Navas had an outstanding season for the Valencia club, but has just a 10 million euro release clause in his contract, which is well within even Atletico’s debt-ridden scope. El Confidencial reckons that the Madrid side could bag him for as little as 7-8 million euros, despite interest from AC Milan and their city neighbours Real. The deal, it’s thought, could be wrapped up before the World Cup.
What would that mean for Courtois? Simple. If Navas is on his way to Atletico, it won’t be as a back-up. So if the bid is for real, it means Courtois should be on his way to Stamford Bridge. The Spanish side are, it’s being claimed, resigned to losing him for next season.
The Spanish media have seized on comments made by Courtois, which they claim imply that he is being brought back to Chelsea against his wishes. Even if their reading of the comments is partisan and debateable, it all adds to the growing expectation that Courtois will be playing at Stamford Bridge rather than the Calderon next season.
There’s also talk in Spain – albeit in the notably unreliable daily sports paper Marca – that Mourinho has promised Courtois the number one spot, having spoken to him after the Champions League semi-final draw. Marca also claims that Chelsea re ready to put Petr Cech up for sale to make room for the younger keeper.
For both Courtois and Navas, and their respective clubs, the moves make a lot of sense. Courtois cannot continue for much longer on loan, without knowing what his future holds. For Navas – who’s 27 – this may be his last real chance of a move to a big club and chance to play in the Champions League. Atletico can snap up an excellent replacement for Courtois at a fraction of the sum they’ll get for Costa, and still have some loose change to cover their crippling debt. And Levante, habitual strugglers in La Liga, make a tidy profit on a play they signed for peanuts just two years ago.
The Navas transfer bid claim is likely to be based on solid evidence, and should be taken seriously. We will know soon enough, anyway. The Marca reports, however, do not appear to be backed up by anything other than rumour, supposition and hearsay, so I’d suggested hesitating before rushing down to Ladbroke’s and betting your life savings on a Petr Cech departure. However, it seems that it may well be the time to start digging out the bunting and balloons to mark the arrival of Thibault Courtois.