Thibaut Courtois looks too slight to be a keeper. Just under two metres tall, he isn’t the bulkiest of lads but once he pulls on his jersey he becomes as big and as tough as a wall. Despite being just 21, he is already seen as one of the best shot stoppers in the world and on Monday the LFP should recognise his efforts from last season.
A League champion with Genk at just 19, he was attracting scouts from all across Europe. When Atletico de Madrid sold David De Gea they tried to replace him with the Belgian teenager. Chelsea were also following his progress and they outbid the Manzanares side. Courtois still ended up in Madrid though as the London outfit sent him out on a season long loan.
His arrival at the Vicente Calderon wasn’t exactly a warm one. Rojiblancos believed with the sale of De Gea that Joel would take over between the sticks. Yet, after one game, Courtois had already won Atleti fans over.
Although he displayed promise many thought that the shot stopper would struggle a little but he showed a level of maturity way beyond his years. In his first El Derbi he saw red in the first half. The club tried to protect him by not allowing him to do interviews straight after the game but 10 days later he was eager to stress that the red card was fair and that he just wanted to move on. It was clear from that moment that he wasn’t your typical teenager and that Atletico and Chelsea had a very talented and intelligent keeper on their books
Now in his third year at the club, the Belgian international has enjoyed remarkable success. In his first year he won the Europa League, last season he won the Copa del Rey and he was key to Atleti beating Real Madrid and the club also qualifying for the Champions League. He won the Zamora award by conceding just 27 goals in 37 games and became the youngest ever keeper to win the award.
It was believed that he would return to Chelsea this summer but Atleti managed to hold on to him for one more year. It is the final year he can be loaned out to the Madrid club. The big question is what does the future hold for him.
Cholo Simeone has told Atletico that the priority next summer is signing Courtois on a permanent deal. The club held back some money this summer and with Champions League money, they hope they can raise enough to sign him. Chelsea expect him to return but he has said he will refuse to go back and play second fiddle to Petr Cech. Barca are also sniffing around. At 21 he is already one of the best, he can only get better. No matter what happens now, he has firmly written his name into the Atleti history books. Should he return to the Premier League, La Liga will have lost a great player.