Evaluating Chelsea FC’s goalkeeping situation amidst Thibaut Courtois exit rumours

(Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images)
(Photo by Jean Catuffe/Getty Images) /

Chelsea FC face the likelihood of an El Classico in the summer over their first choice goalkeeper, Thibaut Courtois.

Unlike any other time in recent memory, a Game of Thrones (or rather, goalposts) has been unfolding in the football world over the last couple of years. While the never ending saga involving David de Gea’s departure to Real Madrid topped the list, the Petr Cech-Thibaut Courtois joust at Chelsea and Simon Mignolet’s impending ouster from Liverpool made up the top three.

Akin to a quintessential George RR Martin plot (i.e. shock and awe at the most unexpected juncture), De Gea stayed put at Old Trafford, while Courtois was given the reins at Stamford Bridge over the long serving Cech, who, much to the chagrin of Blues supporters, then took over at the Emirates. Mignolet, contrary to even his own wildest expectations, was given a new five-year contract at Anfield.

Just when all things appeared settled (overall and in the goalposts), another GoT-like plot seems to be brewing. With rumours of Courtois being wanted by Real Madrid still alive, there comes along reports of Barcelona entering the fray for him. This is (no) thanks to Liverpool’s possible regrets over Mignolet’s contract extension and them eyeing Marc-Andre ter Stegen as a replacement, who, in turn, is reportedly unhappy with his rotation role at the Nou Camp.

Coinciding with the emergence of these rumours, is Courtois’ volte-face, that has left the Blues fan base fuming. While Eden Hazard’s relationship with the supports changed from adulation to rancour as quickly as the London weather does, Chelsea’s disastrous performance in the current season seems to have let the proverbial cat out of the bag, at least with respect to player dissatisfaction. Come to think of it, what’s with Belgian players at Chelsea and attitude problems (Romelu Lukaku, Hazard & now Courtois)?

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Where does this leave Chelsea?

Considering all the developments this season, I would say that the fan base wouldn’t mind getting rid of “bad blood”. The Blues support is one of the most passionate, sensible and pragmatic ones around. Having had to say bye to legends like Didier Drogba, Frank Lampard, Joe Cole, Cech before and probably John Terry this year in addition to favourites like Juan Mata, they wouldn’t mind seeing the back of those players, irrespective of stature, who do not want to remain at Stamford Bridge.

With Chelsea’s Italian connections growing stronger by the minute, reports have emerged, of strong interest in AC Milan’s teenage goalkeeping sensation, Gianluigi Donarumma.

Chelsea also have a more than able back up in Asmir Begovic, who quite fantastically deputed for Courtois earlier this season. In fact, many fans believe that Begovic’s performance during our worst moments have been way better than Courtois’ during our resurgence.

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Chelsea also have a youngster in their ranks, the 22-year old academy product Jamal Blackman, who is currently plying his trade on loan (surprise surprise?) at Swedish side Ostersunds FK. But his quality to play for the Blues first team is very much in doubt.

This is considering the fact that he has never featured for the seniors, his current loan move and the fact that Chelsea, instead of utilising him, went for the emergency signing of veteran Marco Amelia during Courtois’ injury lay off as a backup for Begovic.

If one simply considers Courtois moving away and nothing else, it would make perfect sense to bring in quality and youth in Donarumma. But considering our record (or lack thereof) in graduating youngsters into the first eleven, such a move begs the question. This is especially considering that despite his young age, he’s already featured in multiple matches for AC Milan and would be loathe to warm the benches at Stamford Bridge.

It would be a disservice to both his talent and to Begovic, who is a top goalkeeper himself and has been the consummate professional in biding his time at Chelsea, performing very well when called up for duty.

Most likely, Courtois will remain at Chelsea for the foreseeable future. Whether or not we will witness an El Classico over him during the summer transfer window is unclear, but the fact remains that our club has its task cut out in managing player frustrations, fan disappointments and owner (and fan) expectations.

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An early managerial appointment, coupled with some decisive and smart transfer moves (including clear outs) will ensure a quick recovery to the top of the table, where we rightfully belong.