Thibaut Courtois signed for Chelsea from Genk in 2011 and has quickly established himself as one of Europe’s premier goalkeepers during three years on loan at Atletico Madrid. But what do we know about the 21-year-old?
Courtois began his career at Genk, where he came through the youth system and made his debut for the club aged just 16 in April 2009. Courtois made the No 1 spot his own during the 2010/11 season and helped Genk to win the Belgian league, where 14 clean sheets in 40 games ensured he was named as the league’s best goalkeeper and Genk’s player of the year.
Move to England and subsequent loan
Courtois’ displays were noticed by Chelsea, who signed the goalkeeper in 2011. Rather than stay at Stamford Bridge, Courtois was loaned to Atletico Madrid, where he made 52 appearances during the 2011/12 campaign. Atletico won the Europa League in Courtois’ first season at the club, beating Athletic Bilbao in the final.
A deal was agreed for Courtois to stay in Madrid for another season. He featured against Chelsea in a 4-1 Super Cup win in August and went on to help Atleti to finish third in La Liga. More silverware would follow on a collective and individual basis, with Atletico winning the Spanish Cup and Courtois named as the best goalkeeper in La Liga.
One more year in Madrid
Courtois’ loan was extended by a further 12 months at the start of this season and he has missed only one of Atleti’s first 32 league games this season. The goalkeeper’s influence has been key in helping Diego Simeone’s side to compete at the top of La Liga and reach the Champions League semi-finals.
Standing at 6ft 6in, Courtois is an intimidating presence between the sticks. He possesses fine reflexes and made a series of superb saves to deny Barcelona in the first leg of the recent Champions League quarter-final. Courtois has kept more clean sheets than any other goalkeeper in La Liga this season - testament to the fact that he is a highly-adept shot stopper.
What the professionals say
Atleti striker Diego Costa was full of praise for Courtois after the goalkeeper made a string of fine saves to ensure progression to this season’s Champions League quarter-finals. "Courtois is one of the best goalkeepers in the world and he knows it," Costa said. “With a keeper like him, we feel more secure.”
Simeone, meanwhile, has praised Courtois’ “very good level” of goalkeeping while Barcelona manager Gerardo Martino recently hailed the 21-year-old as “one of the best goalkeepers in the world”.
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