[dropcap]A[/dropcap]lthough much of the attention has been on Petr Čech this week given his sensational move to Arsenal, there’s an even more impressive story underlying the £10million transfer.
Thibaut Courtois, who started his football career as a left-back for a local Belgium side Bilzen V.V, has managed to completely displace Petr Čech from the Chelsea first team after just one season at Stamford Bridge.
The 23-year old, who already boasts eight different major honours across Europe, was given the nod as Chelsea’s number one by José Mourinho and hasn’t looked back since; something which shouldn’t be considered an easy feat, given that Mourinho once claimed that Čech was worth more than £50 million during a season in which the Czech goal keeper kept 32 clean sheets for Chelsea.
Thibaut Courtois has established himself amongst the world’s best at just 23-years old and is already surpassing, in a lot of people’s eyes, the likes of Manuel Neuer and Hugo Lloris.
After joining Chelsea in 2011, it would seem that the Belgian was allowed to veto the usual Vitesse loan period and instead joined an Atlético side which he later propelled to a first La Liga title in nine years.
Named as part of the Champions League team of the season in 2013, Courtois was also unfortunate not to win the honour at just 21-years-old. So the question stands, is Courtois set to be the best goal keeper ever?
With another 10 to 15 years ahead of him, and his prime still yet to come, you’d have to have some special knowledge to suggest otherwise. However, one thing that might prevent him being boasted amongst Kahn and Shilton in the history books, rather frustratingly, is his nationality.
Despite having all the tools, Belgium don’t seem set for success in the near future, owing to numerous problems in their own camp, and as mentioned, this could prove to be a detractor to his reputation.
Furthermore, Edwin van der Sar, a figure with which Courtois is often compared to, criticised the keeper’s ability to coach a team during a game and conceded that the Belgian didn’t have enough command over his defence. The Dutchman said that Courtois has a lot of progress to make before he can be considered the best and cited a big difference between shouting at team-mates and ‘coaching’ them.
However, given that John Terry is in his final years at Chelsea, it would seem that the Chelsea back line could be looking for a new leader and Courtois would be in the perfect position to do that.
Perhaps the biggest problem for the young Belgian is that he has already reached such a high level at a young age. Some of Courtois’ performances, especially at Atlético, seem impossible to surpass and it would seem that staying at such a level would be more important than improving. However, as can be seen with David De Gea, a dramatic improvement seems to be lauded a lot more in the media.
Courtois’ biggest test will be maintaining his current form throughout his entire career, be it at Chelsea or whichever challenge he seeks next. It would seem that Courtois has the world at his hands, but only time will tell if the 6’7″ Belgian will stand tall amongst football’s best ever.
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