After Real Madrid has booked his place in the semi-finals of the Champions League, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has a tasty reunion with former side Chelsea.
The Belgian enjoyed great success at Stamford Bridge during his seven years with the club between 2011 and 2018, winning two Premier League titles, an FA Cup and a League Cup when he replaced club legend Petr Cech as No. 1.
But despite his stellar career in West London, there is little love for him from the Chelsea faithful and it all stems from his bitter departure.
Thibaut Courtois shone for Real Madrid when they beat Liverpool in the Champions League
The Spanish newspaper AS led Courtois’ words of praise after his good performance at Anfield
After building his reputation as one of Chelsea’s best players during his stay in the capital, all fond memories for the club’s fans quickly faded into the distance after he switched to Real Madrid in the summer of 2018 in a deal from £ 35 million.
With a return to the Spanish capital at stake after his days at Atletico Madrid, Courtois infuriated Chelsea supporters after failing to report for training during the preseason in his bid to force a move to Real.
Chelsea’s then-manager Maurizio Sarri had insisted that Courtois tell him in person that he intended to leave, but he just didn’t get back in time from his post-World Cup holiday – and there was no turning back. .
For a player who had become one of the greatest goalkeepers in world football during his time at Chelsea, only to turn his back on the club, this was in the eyes of many inexcusable.
Chelsea also remained frustrated with his criticism of club director Marina Granovskaia after moving to Madrid, claiming she was going back on her promise to sell him after the 2018 World Cup – which led to him refusing to train with the Blues.
Courtois said to the Belgian outlet HLN: ‘It is normal for Marina to find it difficult to negotiate.
“The people in football who talk about contracts, salaries, transfers, getting players and getting rid of them – they have the hardest job.
‘In March, Marina and I had a meeting in which I indicated that I wanted to leave.
‘Living in London and the Premier League schedule made it impossible for me to regularly see my children who live in Madrid.
“Are you going to find something?” she replied. I said to her, “Don’t worry.” “That’s good,” she said. “We’ll let you go and find a replacement.”
‘After the World Cup, a departure was suddenly no longer so obvious.
The possible replacements were too expensive. That was not the deal. ‘
In the semi-finals, Courtois takes on Chelsea, where he won two league titles
He risked the wrath of Chelsea fans even further when former Blues star Eden Hazard made his move to Madrid in 2019.
After joining him in Madrid, Courtois posted a message greeting Hazard to LaLiga on social media, writing, “Welcome to the best club in the world.” Making matters worse.
Courtois’ Wikipedia page has been changed so that the goalkeeper’s profile photo was a snake, next to the caption: ‘Courtois in line for Belgium at the 2018 World Cup.’
It is reasonable to believe that this edit was made by a Chelsea fan who was left furious after his bitter departure from Stamford Bridge.
So Courtois certainly won’t have many friends at Chelsea as he prepares to face his old club for a spot in the Champions League final.
One thing you would say is that the 28-year-old is extraordinarily fortunate that there will be no Chelsea fans in either semifinals, especially for the Stamford Bridge clash.
But despite the furor that continues to this day around his departure, Courtois has admitted to enjoying the reunion, claiming it’s a shame no fans will be in attendance.
After Wednesday’s goalless draw at Anfield that reached the semi-final of Madrid after the 3-1 victory in the first leg, Courtois told BeIN Sports: ‘It will be really nice to see a lot of familiar faces and I wish audience was at Stamford Bridge as there were many happy moments I had there.
The Belgian shot-stopper left Chelsea for the Spanish giants in 2018 on bitter terms
“Even though my departure may not have been the best way, or put it in such a way that it wasn’t the best way, I have nothing but good memories.
“Two Premier Leagues, many other trophies – I am very happy to play them, but there can only be one in the final and I hope it is Real Madrid.”
Courtois’ history with Chelsea is just one of many compelling storylines as Europe’s elite prepare to compete for the biggest club prize in the game.
But while there has been a lot of talk about Courtois and his relationship with the Premier League side ahead of the semi-final between Real Madrid and Chelsea, the Belgian No. 1 has only one thing in his sights – European glory – and nothing will come. in his way.
After a nightmare in Madrid, in which he had to play five times against arch-rival Barcelona in El Clasico in November 2018, Courtois’ poor fortune was picked up by Chelsea fans.
His Real Madrid career certainly did not go according to plan and he was heavily criticized for underperformance.
He couldn’t help but face the memories of what he wasn’t. He was not David de Gea, the goalkeeper who pursued Madrid for years before signing the Belgian. Nor was he Keylor Navas, a fan favorite who eventually moved to Paris Saint-Germain a season after Courtois’ arrival.
But the Belgian has now turned his fortune and won over the fans. He is once again named one of the best goalkeepers in world football – with the local Spanish press at the forefront.
Courtois sparkled as Zinedine Zidane’s men remained determined at Anfield against Jurgen Klopp’s Liverpool to secure their final four spot.
Courtois in action during Real Madrid’s 2-1 El Clasico win over Barcelona last weekend
The 28-year-old made a series of fantastic saves to ease Madrid’s nerves, especially in the opening moments of the match.
For the first 15 minutes, Courtois brilliantly stopped Mohamed Salah’s attack with his feet as he acrobatically tapped a James Milner curling over the bar.
And he remained on his guard the entire time, culminating in his rescue to deny Salah at death to make sure there was no nervous ending for the Spaniards.
And he received huge praise after the triumph, with Madrid-based newspaper AS leading the round of applause.
AS led their front page with a photo of the Belgian shot-stopper celebrating on the full-time whistle, next to the headline ‘Invincibles’, before hailing the ‘fantastic performances of Courtois, Nacho and Militao’.
Fellow Spanish newspaper Marca also highlighted Courtois’ stubborn actions, claiming that his rescues were crucial to Madrid’s progress in Europe.
But while he is currently getting rave reviews, Courtois will be desperate to make all the right headlines as he takes on his former club in the Champions League semi-finals.
Any mistake from their much-maligned former goalkeeper, and Chelsea fans certainly won’t run out of ammunition.