22 Goalkeeper Chelsea Belgium
2014 has been…
…more of the same, in a very, very good way.
“A - The question is not whether he’ll go on to become one of the top five goalkeepers in world football, it’s whether he’s in the top three already”
So ended Thibaut Courtois’s 100 report from last year. There’s only one way you can go from the top of the tree we feared, yet somehow he managed to defy the odds and become the first ever player to retain his top mark. We spent last year’s report card purring over his part in a great season with Atlético that had ended with that man-of-the-match performance in the Copa Del Rey final. There was no way he could keep that level of performance up and perhaps more importantly, there was no way Atlético could continue to punch above their weight was there?
The rest, as they say, is history. He returned permanently to Chelsea this season after playing over a 100 games in Madrid. He now had a La Liga winner’s medal to add to the Copa one, a Champion’s League final appearance and a World Cup summer to look back on. He also came “home” to Stamford Bridge with a reputation that forced José to state publicly that Cech and Courtois would compete to be Chelsea’s number one, but a reality that has seen the Belgian start all but one their Premier League games (only missing the other due to injury).
There is the occasional mistake but goalkeeping, traditionally at least, is a position where experience counts for everything. At a tender age he has already played at the very highest levels available. We’ve said the sky’s the limit for certain players since we began the 100; for Courtois you need to be thinking in terms of just how long he might be the best goalkeeper in the world during his career.
Keep on keeping on. Where do you place Courtois in terms of the best in his position at the moment? Who is better than him – De Gea? Neuer? You can make a case for four or five goalkeepers to be the best in the world as it stands, and one of the strongest is for Thibaut.
These are the highest of heights to be hitting at the tender age of just 22. At some point there will a dip in form, the law of averages dictates such things, but if he remains consistent for the bulk of his career he’s going to be ridiculously good. A part of his heart remains in Spain and who knows if he’ll engineer a move back there at some junction, but we can think of not a single earthly reason why Chelsea, or any other side in world football, would ever sell him.
He has now played against Lionel Messi eight times and Messi has scored a grand total of zero goals. He has feuded with international rival Simon Mignolet and effectively won (he played every minute of Belgium’s World Cup adventures). He has survived what we’ll charitably call “issues” with Kevin De Bruyne and we’re sure it was mere coincidence they chose to sell him the summer Courtois was returning to the club full time. He is a force of nature at the age of 22, the sky’s the limit? “The sky” is for mere mortals.
We’ve said enough so it’s worth listening to other people’s opinions. Diego Simeone said signing him would be “cheap at any price”. José Mourinho described some of the saves he makes as “impossible”. In an interview with the Guardian Gianluigi Buffon cited him as his favourite young goalkeeper in the world. His Belgium team-mate Jan Vertonghen said he was so good that “to be honest I don’t know how he can improve his game, but he will find a way”. Team-mate Mark Schwarzer described him simply as “outstanding”. These are but a few of the comments we could have listed but goggling “praise” and “Courtois” will give you another 167,000 results to wade through.
Got the picture? Good. Best goalkeeper in the world? Debatable. Will he be at some point in the future? Absolutely.
“You run out of things to say and ways to praise to be frank. He makes saves other top-line goalkeepers don’t, he’s proved to be instantly comfortable commanding his Premier League area and telling John Terry what to do, his reflexes defy his size and for his age his experience is astounding. Frightening.” – Dave Hartrick
"Thibaut Courtois kept five clean sheets and conceded just 10 goals in 12 Champions League appearances as he helped Atlético Madrid to the final of the competition." - OptaJoe
A It has to be another top mark for the title, the near-perfect form, a World Cup summer and a return to Stamford Bridge as first choice (despite José’s protests to the contrary)
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