Thibaut Courtois set for Chelsea next year as Atletico Madrid seek double delight

barcelona

Thibaut Courtois celebrated winning the Spanish League yesterday three years to the day from when he celebrated lifting the Belgian League with Genk. His comments, as the realisation began to sink in late on Saturday, suggest that he now accepts that next year the challenge will be the Premier League with Chelsea.

“I will miss all this the day I have to say goodbye,” he said still wet with the champagne that had been sprayed all around him on the pitch at the Nou Camp after Atletico Madrid’s 1-1 draw with Barcelona clinched the La Liga title.

“I have built up a very good relationship with the supporters in the three years that I have been here. I never imagined this would happen when I arrived at the club.”

Courtois was beaten in the first half on Saturday by a shot from Alexis Sanchez that no goalkeeper in the world would have saved, but that goal was not enough to deprive him of the coveted Ricardo Zamora Trophy for the keeper who has let in fewest goals this season. He was winning the award for the second year running.

The Belgian also passed another landmark – it was the seventh consecutive game in which he had shut out Lionel Messi. Petr Cech had done so six times but the man who may well take his place in Chelsea’s first XI next season has now surpassed that record.

If Courtois’ star is rising, Messi’s continues to crash to earth. Barcelona made much of their coup last week in persuading him to sign a new contract but he was whistled off on Saturday having been among the worst of Barça’s performers. It was an awful display from the home side, not becoming a team who had the league title in their sights before kick-off and practically in their hands at half-time.

There is actually very little “new” about Messi’s latest deal. His contract will still run to 2018, his buyout clause stays at €250m (£200m) and, despite earlier reports to the contrary, it seems even his image rights remain 100 per cent his. There is a slight pay rise that, club sources suggest, puts him on around €20m a season, and as a consequence just above Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo.

It seemed to matter last week that he had once again become the best-paid player on the planet. It seemed to matter a lot less at the end of the game on Saturday night after he had shown, as he has done many times this season, that he is no longer the world’s best player. Whether he regains that mantle at the World Cup, time will tell. For Courtois there is a World Cup and a European Cup final to look forward to.

“I want to win next week in Lisbon [against Real Madrid] and then I’m off to Brazil. The last three years have been incredible,” he said.

He was hugged by Diego Costa at the final whistle – the Brazilian Spain international’s tears after being taken off in the first half having turn to smiles by the end.

He may well be joining Courtois at Stamford Bridge next season. Before that Costa will hope to play a bigger part in the Champions League final than he was able to do in the league title play-off.

Costa came off after 15 minutes and his right hamstring looks likely to rule him out of Saturday’s game. The tears he shed on the Atletico bench certainly seemed to suggest he is beginning to fear the worst.

Costa and Arda Turan, who was also taken off in the first half against Barcelona but is more optimistic about making the final, were the most vocal in the Atletico dressing room at half-time, urging the team on to finish the job without them in the second half.

There was no opportunity to ask what the Barça coach, Gerardo Martino, said to his players at half-time because he took no questions post-game and simply confirmed that he was stepping down. Luis Enrique should be named as his replacement this week.

“In no moment did I think that the game was getting away from us,” said Atletico’s Diego Simeone, who will surely now win Fifa manager of the year, having not even made the top 10 last season.

“The bigger the challenge the more my players have given me. It’s been 18 years since we have won the league but there has been a gradual realisation this season that we could win it,” he added.

Simeone’s father, Carlos, was ushered to the front of the Nou Camp at the end of the game so his son could embrace him. “I was concerned to see him crying because he never cries,” said the Atletico coach. 

Over 100,000 Atletico supporters celebrated the title at the fountain of Neptune in the Spanish capital. One year ago they had gathered there to celebrate beating Real on their own ground to win the Spanish Cup, now they had won in Barça’s stadium to win the league. In five days they have the chance to become Champions of Europe in Lisbon against Ronaldo and Real.

Sport
footballLIVE City face Stoke, while Warnock returns to Palace dugout
Arts and Entertainment
books
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + techSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100Steve Carell selling chicken, Tina Fey selling saving accounts and Steve Colbert selling, um...
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
News
i100
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone