Atletico Madrid were always on borrowed time with Thibaut Courtois. Sooner or later the Belgian would be called back to Stamford Bridge.
That day has now come. Jose Mourinho has summoned the former Genk man to home base after three seasons on loan at the Vicente Calderon, his Blues career set to begin in earnest.
But for both Atletico and Courtois, it was beautiful borrowed time. In Spain he developed into not only one of football’s most exceptional young shot stoppers, but one of the best in the whole business.
And so waving goodbye to the two-time Zamora Trophy-winner is a heartbreaking experience for Atleti, as inevitable as it’s been. Despite Courtois spiritually being one of their own, part of historic La Liga, Copa del Rey and Europa League triumphs, he never actually belonged to the club.
Now, all the Spanish champions can do is pick up the pieces and move forward. The positive of the situation is that Atleti have shown a remarkable ability to successfully replace lost stars in recent years.
Enter 18-year-old Udinese goalkeeper Simone Scuffet. The teenager enjoyed an impressive breakout season with the Zebrette last season, catching the eye of Europe’s top clubs.
Reports have indicated that Atleti are close to securing his services. But unlike with Courtois, not on loan. The Colchoneros seem ready to splash out up to €10 million to make the teenage truly theirs, their investment for the future, their very own Courtois.
Should the Madrid outfit sign Scuffet, it’s said he’ll be farmed out to Granada initially to mature into Atletico’s no. 1 of the future. When the time is right, he’d be brought back into his parent club’s fold just like Chelsea have done with Courtois.
The loan system can at times feel a cruel one. Atleti’s experience with Courtois is a prime example of this phenomenon, but the club appear to have learned from it.
This time around, it seems Diego Simeone’s side want full control of the destiny of their young star between the pipes. And if Scuffet does end up moving to Madrid, it looks like they’ll indeed have achieved that end.