Thibaut Courtois is a Chelsea player. And yet that is not exactly true.
For the last two-and-a-half years, the Belgian goalkeeper has shone for Atletico Madrid, his elongated loan move transforming him into one of the world’s best stoppers, despite being just 21.
His trajectory is no surprise, given the fact that when the Blues first agreed to sign him from Genk in 2011, it was for a fee that could rise to €9million; far from cheap for a teenage ‘keeper.
But in time it proved to be one of the steals of the century, with Courtois arguably the best in his position in La Liga, despite failing to appear for the club he officially belongs to.
Reports last week revealed that Courtois will talk to Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho about his future, and inform him he has no intention of sitting on the Stamford Bridge bench if Petr Cech remains the Portuguese coach’s first choice.
Speaking to Belgian magazine Knack, the player is quoted as saying, “I will never say I am a better goalkeeper than Petr Cech. But I’m not a player anymore that you can put on the bench, I think. I will take that in mind when I make my decision.
“It is a game of supply and demand. Clubs don’t gain an advantage by taking a decision against the will of a player.
“Clubs who are interested have to pay what Chelsea asks, if they want to sell me, of course.”
With a contract at the Blues until 2016, he could, in theory, remain at Atletico for another few seasons before ultimately taking over from Cech.
But you sense he wants to be wanted. After all, he knows he is good enough. And this evening he has yet another chance to show that, as his side go head-to-head with Barcelona in Europe’s biggest match of the weekend.
With the two sides matching each other stride for stride in La Liga, the winner of tonight’s match will take a huge advantage into the second half of the season. As close as it is, a single match, a single goal, could change everything.
If Courtois is good enough to be placed in a goal set to face the likes of Lionel Messi and Neymar in Atletico’s biggest match for years, he is ready for Chelsea.
It will be interesting to see if he ever gets that chance. But for now, his thoughts will be solely on the club at which he has grown into one of the very best in his position.
image: © azuaje