Over the past few weeks, rumors about Real Madrid acquiring a new Goalkeeper have surfaced. While every Madridista loves Keylor Navas, unfortunately, he isn’t getting any younger. The Costa Rican shot stopper turned 30 this past month, and is likely approaching the time where most Goalkeepers begin to lose a step. Since Navas is only slightly above 6 feet tall, he relies much more on his athleticism as opposed to someone like Petr Cech, or Gigi Buffon, who have their size and length to fall back on and extend their careers. Unless Keylor Navas is in the very small minority, his athleticism is going to drop off within the next few seasons if it hasn’t already.
So who could replace the player that Real Madrid fans have grown so fond of? Thibaut Courtois has been the name most often linked to Real Madrid since the transfer ban was reduced. Reports from Spain indicate that Courtois misses Spain, and even considers himself to be “Half-Spanish”. This was followed up on in September, when Courtois stated that he was keen to return to Spain at some point in his career.
Joining Belgian club Genk in 1999, Courtois worked his way up through the ranks. Before he even turned 17, he made his club debut, and eventually helped lead the side to a league title. Shortly afterwards, the big clubs came knocking. Chelsea bought Courtois for 9 million Euros, and unsurprisingly, immediately sent him out on loan to Atlético Madrid.
Unfortunately, every Madridista remembers that loan spell in a negative light. Courtois was man of the match in a Copa Del Rey final that Real Madrid shockingly lost, and followed up that performance the next year by anchoring a defense that won the league title. Real ended up with the last laugh, however, by putting 4 past the Belgian in the Champions League final.
Thibaut has since returned to his parent club Chelsea, who upon his return, immediately won the Premier League. Although he suffered a serious knee injury that kept him out for months, and struggled for consistency last season, the shot stopper has regained form in 2016. The Belgian has played an integral role in Chelsea’s hot start to the season, keeping 11 clean sheets in just 20 matches.
At first glance, Courtois’ size instantly sticks out. His massive 6’6’’ frame allows him to be an imposing presence in goal while making difficult saves look relatively easy.
When players are through on goal, Courtois uses his size to make shooting angles impossibly tight for attackers.
Courtois also possesses surprisingly quick reflexes for someone his size.
In the air, not surprisingly the Belgian also holds a massive advantage. Unless the ball is an out-swinger, Thibaut is able to claim nearly every ball that comes into the box. It should also be noted that Courtois impressively speaks fluent Flemish, Spanish, English, French and German, while even developing the Madrid accent during his loan stint in the Capital. Still just only 24 years of age, Courtois is an ideal candidate for the starting job. At this age, he has not yet reached his full potential, yet still possesses a matureness to his game that has developed from playing in multiple European leagues.
No Goalkeeper is perfect, and Thibaut is no exception. At times for Chelsea, Courtois has struggled communicating with defenders, especially Gary Cahill. While some may be inclined to blame this on a player like Cahill, ultimately it is the Goalkeeper’s responsibility to organize a defense.
In the past, Courtois has also been criticized for being unable to distribute the ball effectively. However, this season under Conte he has tremendously improved his accuracy. It is difficult to find many flaws in the Belgian’s game, but on long passes specifically he must still improve. While he is by no means a “sweeper keeper” Courtois is an excellent Goalkeeper in his own right.
Should Los Blancos go after Courtois?
There is no question that all Madridistas love Keylor Navas, however, at this point his best years are behind him. After his exceptional season last year, we the fans have set an impossibly high bar for Navas. He hasn’t been bad this season, but we all expect to see the same acrobatic, match-winning Keeper we saw last season. After the 2016-2017 season, it might be time for Real Madrid to look towards the future of the position. Because of Navas’ inevitable decline, along with the alleged interest of Courtois himself, Real Madrid should make this move. This doesn’t mean that Keylor won’t have a spot in the squad, as he can still be a reliable deputy for the club..
Thibaut Courtois would give Los Blancos a world-class keeper who has yet to even enter his prime. Unfortunately, there is little concrete evidence to suggest that Courtois will actually move back to Madrid. Just three weeks ago, the Belgian tweeted this seemingly affirming his loyalty to Chelsea.
⚽️ #CFC ⚪️ pic.twitter.com/KKJIcwnIvX— Thibaut Courtois (@thibautcourtois) December 23, 2016
Was this tweet just to cool off rumors, or does the Belgian really dream of Spain? Courtois would make an excellent addition to Real Madrid’s already near-perfect starting XI, but luring him away from London will be a very difficult task.