The first signing of the Andre Villas-Boas reign isn’t yet a household name within European football. Nor has he played an international game yet for Belgium. But this signing could prove pivotal in the future for Chelsea – a valuable replacement for Petr Cech.
Courtois agent, his father Thierry was summoned to a board meeting last night (Wednesday) to be told his son could complete his dream move to the London club. Although at the time of writing, the deal isn’t done but it is expected to be completed within 24 hours. Genk managing director, Dirk Degraen set a transfer deadline of July 15 for all business to be completed within the club, possibly forcing Chelsea into making their move. Atletico Madrid were also interested, looking to replace David DeGea but Chelsea
The Blues originally offered £3m for the goalkeeper but came back with an improved offer that Genk have accepted. Whilst the deal allows Courtois to go back to Genk for the next season, likely to keep him match-fit for the time when he does replace arguably the Premier League’s best keeper in the last decade, it was a inevitable transfer once the Chelsea scouts swarmed to the Cristal Arena to see what the fuss was about.
Thibaut Courtois dazzled the Jupiler Pro League last season with his vast collection of acrobatic saves and was easily Genk’s best player. Whilst Kevin De Bruyne and Jelle Vossen flaunted their magic up front, Courtois put in some accomplished performances between the posts for a 19-year old.
Courtois played every single minute of the 40 game campaign and produced some magical moments that saved games for Genk, as they went on to lift the Jupiler Pro League. Even in games Genk were dominating, Courtois often provided a reflex save or two to keep the opposing team out when his back four were at sea. In the big games, Courtois shone with many late reflex save to keep Genk’s title charge on track.
In fact, it was the last game of the season where Courtois certainly made this writer sit up and take notice of him. The opponents were Standard Liege and the winners would ultimately win the league. Genk had equalised through Kennedy Nwanganga and a draw would be enough. Cue Courtois with several acrobatic saves that kept Standard out. The crowd roared with appreciation for his efforts. Throughout that game, Courtois played like an experienced keeper used to the pressure of a cup final, not a player in his rookie year at the club about to become a league winner. Strangely enough in that game, he reminded me of a younger Petr Cech at Euro 2004 stretching to make a finger-tip save from Johnny Heitinga.
So what can Chelsea expect from Courtois. Certainly, a youngster with incredible positioning (as hopefully that video shows). He isn’t scared to rush towards an opponent and stick out a hand to stop an effort. His flexibility is also impressive for a 6ft 6 goalkeeper as Courtois is able to tip shots over the bar with a punch or get down low to turn a shot around the post. With most keepers improving with age, Courtois has the potential to be one of the world’s best given his consistency already at 19. He’s already been compared to Michel Preud’homme and Jean Marie-Pfaff, so highly is he rated in his homeland.
Sure, Courtois won’t dislodge Cech from his first team status just yet, hence why Genk have him for another season in the hope that he maintains the excellent form that got him this move. Chelsea clearly see him as the next No.1 at the club and they have done excellently to beat many other clubs to the Belgian’s signature. As for Genk, they can be happy that Courtois doesn’t depart just yet and help them retain the title, whilst they still have Koen Casteels and László Köteles to replace him.
In conclusion, Thibaut Courtois is a steal at £5m, a hugely talented individual that can only get better with age and big-game experience. This transfer was a formality as soon as Courtois dubbed himself as the successor to Petr Cech on Belgian radio. It may have got him a clip round the ear from his father for his pre-emptive cockiness. But he was right. Here’s the highlight reel.
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