Premier League second-favourites Chelsea risk losing top goalkeeping prospect Thibaut Courtois to Barcelona next summer if the Belgian is not given a chance to usurp current incumbent Petr Cech in the Stamford Bridge side’s goal next season.
The Blues are 87/100 to win to nil with Cech in goal when they host Cardiff after the international break, but Courtois’ form at Atletico Madrid over the past two seasons means manager Jose Mourinho will have much to ponder when he assesses his squad in May.
Courtois anchored La Liga’s meanest defence last season.
The on-loan keeper set a club record of 820 minutes without conceding a goal at the Vicente Calderon before letting a Xabi Prieto effort past him in Real Sociedad’s 1-0 at Atleti in March and finished the season with 20 clean sheets, which was eight more than any other keeper in La Liga.
This season the former Genk youth has again shone in a Los Colchoneros team that are only being kept off top spot in La Liga due to Barcelona’s superior goalscoring record and the stopper kept the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and Isco off the scoresheet in the Rojiblancos’ 1-0 win over Real Madrid at the Bernabeu recently.
Barcelona are set to put pressure on Chelsea to make a decision on Courtois.
The 21-year-old has spoke of how he has enjoyed his time in Madrid and the La Liga champions look set to capitalise on the players’ love for Spain by moving to replace Victor Valdes – who has stated his desire to leave the Camp Nou when his contract runs out next summer – with Courtois.
Chelsea have both of their star goalkeepers under contract until 2016 so Barca would be unlikely to get their man on the cheap, but Courtois is reportedly unwilling to return to Stamford Bridge unless assurances are made regarding his first-team prospects.
Cech’s performance levels have not dropped an iota, but his rival is the younger man by a decade.
Since signing from Rennes in the summer of 2004 Cech has been among the Premier League’s top netminders season after season, keeping an incredible 146 clean sheets in 299 league games in that period and pulled off three heroic penalty saves to deliver Chelsea their first Champions League trophy in 2011/12.
However, next summer Courtois will be the same age as Cech was when he became Chelsea’s number one in Mourinho’s first spell at the club and with Barca ready to pick up the pieces should the Belgian feel spurned the west Londoners must weigh-up their options and err on the side of youth, while ensuring they do not strengthen one of their main Champions League rivals.