The 21-year-old Belgian goalkeeper signed for the Blues for £7 million in 2011 from Racing Genk and went straight out on loan to Athletico Madrid where he has been the first choice between the sticks for three seasons in a row now.
"I want to play, I will not be sitting on the bench," he told the Evening Standard.
“At Atletico I feel great and being here allows me to play in the Champions League. I’ve grown a lot at Atletico, especially last season when we won the European Super Cup and the Copa del Rey.”
“I’ve made great progress, especially in terms of speed, reflexes and experience. I am in my best form and I feel like I am among the five best goalkeepers in the world," he added.
Courtois is not short of admirers in Spain or his native Belgium, that for sure, and there is no doubt that Chelsea’s decision to loan him out to Athletico Madrid were intelligent and in the youngster’s best interests.
He gets to go out and play top level football week in week out for a top team in a top league where he can learn, make his mistakes, gain experience and mature into one of the best goalkeepers in the world whilst Athletico Madrid pay his wages and then whenever he reaches maturity – like around the same time-frame that Petr Cech starts to consider retirement – Chelsea can bring him back as the perfect and ideal replacement for zero outlay. It’s very smart.
What’s not very smart is his attitude – I commend him on his preference to go and play football, don’t get me wrong, there are already far too many overpaid teenagers not learning their trade in this industry – but his comments portray an arrogant and immodest, and ungracious kind of young man who thinks perhaps a little too much of himself and a little too little of the club that will eventually want him back.
Cech is still only 31, which, in goalkeeper years, is like 10 years old. He could continue at the highest level for at least another five to ten years, by which point young Courtois will be in his late-twenties and probably genuinely considered one of the top five goalkeepers in the world (not just in his own head).
However, Courtois seems to have forgotten one minor detail in this scenario – Chelsea just signed Mark Schwarzer as a back up to Cech but he’s only signed a one-year deal and he’s already 41 and Henrique Hilario is already 37 and, let’s face it, never going to be number one for the Blues.
Courtois may not want to sit on the bench behind Petr Cech in the pecking order but, come next season, Schwarzer could either retire or be released, and then Chelsea will very likely want the youngster back to understudy. He may not want to sit on the bench but saying he’s ‘not going to’ is a bit like a child saying they’re not going to bed – he may not have a choice.
image: © Ben Sutherland