Scouting Report: Thibaut Courtois

The Belgian No.1 made his first-ever appearance for Chelsea, having spent three successive seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid since joining the west Londoners in 2011
Thibaut Courtois made his debut for Chelsea against Werder Bremen three whole years after signing for the club, though endured a disappointing half of football as the Blues fell two goals behind.

The Belgian was withdrawn at the break with the west Londonders 2-0 down against the Germans, though could not be blamed for his side's struggles and produced a miraculous save to deny the hosts early on.

Goal takes a look at how the Belgian fared in his Chelsea bow and whether he showed early signs of displacing previously undisputed No.1 Petr Cech...


Courtois’ first action in a Chelsea shirt – a long-awaited sight for fans of the Stamford Bridge outfit – was to rather nervously fire a pass at a taken-aback Kurt Zouma, who shot his team-mate a disapproving glare as the Blues’ back-line came perilously close to turning over possession deep in their own half.

But it did not take long for the young keeper to show exactly why he is one of Europe’s hottest goalkeepers – and a legitimate heir to Cech – when he was forced into action to deny Franco Di Santo.

The Argentine, once of Chelsea, powered a header into the turf that appeared destined to ripple the net, but Courtois showed his incredible, almost supernatural athleticism to dive to his right and claw away the ball. It was an astonishing, point-blank reflex save that few keepers are capable of, least of all to simultaneously palm the ball up and away from goal.

The former Genk man was beaten shortly after, however, when John Terry handled the ball to concede a penalty. The Belgium international guessed the right way, though Eljero Elia’s clinically placed shot just evaded his fingertips.

Courtois came off his line to claim several cross and corners, and showed good vision to release Diego Costa with an early kick forward, but was picking the ball out of his own net again shortly before half-time as another whipped delivery caused the Chelsea back-line problems. This time Ludovic Obraniak tucked his header into the very corner of the net, giving Courtois no chance to repeat his earlier heroics.


Courtois is likely to be involved in a fascinating tussle with Cech for a starting role at Stamford Bridge. The 32-year-old Czech shot-stopper has had an impossibly consistent, and largely uncontested, decade at Chelsea – and has as many years more experience over Courtois too – but the master’s position looks increasingly precarious now the apprentice has returned.

There was speculation that the Belgian would have preferred to remain on loan at Atletico unless he was guaranteed a starting berth, while Cech has been linked with a transfer, but Jose Mourinho looks set to pit his two world-class shot-stoppers against one another and has yet to – and may never – reveal his first-choice.

“It was logical that Courtois had to be back,” revealed the Portuguese. “It would be nonsense to have such a fantastic young goalkeeper and not to have him back. That decision was an easy one.
“If I have to make a decision for Cech to be on the bench, or for Courtois to be on the bench, it's no problem for me. I will do what I think is the best.”

Long-term, Courtois looks to have the skillset and personality to be not only Chelsea’s No.1 for the next decade (just as Cech was), but one of the world’s stand-out goalkeepers. In the short term, he will have to fight to earn that right and Cech will not surrender his position easily. Either way, the Blues have a more reliable back-up than has been the case for a very long time.

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Courtois’ immediate objective will be to dislodge Cech and win the unrivalled faith of Mourinho, though, despite joining Chelsea some three years ago, he will also need to adapt to the physicality and aerial bombardment of the Premier League – a style which stands in stark contrast to his experiences in Belgium and Spain.

The 22-year-old is physically well suited to the rough and tumble of English football, using his enormous frame to claim crosses with ease and authority, an ability he showcased in bursts against Bremen. Now, however, he must show that he can command his 18-yard box against burly centre-forwards of the Rickie Lambert, Christian Benteke and Wilfried Bony mould.

In Cech’s first season with Chelsea (2004-05), he recorded an astonishing 28 clean sheets in the Premier League as the Blues romped to the title, a tally that remains a division record, and that is the benchmark to which Courtois must aspire.

He managed 20 with Atleti in La Liga last season, and another five in the Champions League, and the same again this season would be an incredible return surely capable of permanently ousting his team-mate. Having claimed the league title in Spain last term, Courtois will be looking to match that achievement in the Premier League and he’ll be eager to go one step further in Europe, having lost out in the final to rivals Real Madrid.