So now we know where Thibaut Courtois will be playing his football next season. Jose Mourinho has given an interview to the Spanish newspaper Marca and he could not have been clearer about the goalkeeper’s future.
“When the World Cup in Brazil is over,” Mourinho said, “Courtois will be coming straight back to Stamford Bridge – end of story.” So no real room for doubt there. The only question is whether Mourinho will allow the Belgian to squeeze a holiday in before reporting for pre-season training.
Courtois has made it clear that he is unhappy to come to West London unless he’s the number one goalkeeper. That stance might have been seen as arrogant a couple of years back, but after two impressive years at Atletico Madrid which has seen him pick up consecutive awards for the most clean sheets in La Liga and help the club to a league title and an appearance in the Champions League final, he can arguably claim to be one of the leading goalkeepers in Europe, if not the world. An impressive World Cup will only enhance his credentials.
The question is, where does this leave Petr Cech? After ten glorious years between the Chelsea posts, is he to find himself now surplus to requirements at the age of just 32? Cech should have years of top-level goalkeeping left in him – it seems a waste to spend them on the bench.
Then there’s the confidence and experience he conveys to the rest of the team. Courtois will have to impress straight from the start if he is to replicate that. Are Chelsea prepared to risk that with a goalkeeper who, for all his exploits in Spain, is untested in the Premier League?
The answer appears to be yes. And so while many Chelsea fans would be happier to see Cech remain at the club and battle it out with Courtois for the jersey, it may be better for both club and player to sanction his departure.
Cech will have no problem finding a top club willing to give him a new home – preferably, for Chelsea’s sake, one outside England. He will command a decent transfer fee too, which will help Chelsea in their expensive restructuring of the squad. It seems likely he will stay at Stamford Bridge in this transfer window as he recovers from surgery – but could be on the move come January assuming that Courtois has been the success everybody expects him to be.
The decision to move Cech on had to be taken at some time. Mourinho obviously thinks it is best done now when Courtois is ready to take the reins. If the opportunity hadn’t been taken, the club stood a good chance of losing Courtois.
Besides, there is no guarantee that Cech will remain in the form we have become accustomed to. Already there are mumblings that he is not quite the keeper he was (they surfaced after the PSG defeat in Paris, for example), and although those mumblings may be premature, they cannot be ignored. Goalkeepers can lose form dramatically and almost overnight – witness Casillas in the Real Madrid goal, whom Mourinho dropped after detecting the signs that he was past his peak even when he still appeared to be at the top of his game.
If Cech does leave, it will be with the immense gratitude and best wishes of every single Chelsea fan. He has been a colossus for the club, without a doubt the best goalkeeper in the club’s history. Courtois may now be the future, but he has a lot to live up to.