by Steven Bell

There has been a lot said about Thibaut Courtois since his arrival at Chelsea in 2011. Highly rated, the young goalkeeper looks set to take over as the Chelsea No.1 in a few years, assuming Chelsea can fend off interest from some of Europe’s best clubs. Recent reports from Spain and England suggest that both FC Barcelona and Real Madrid are preparing bids, as well as current loan club Athletico Madrid. With such demand, and praise coming from the continent over, the Belgian seems to be fast-tracking his development somewhat. Thibaut Nicolas Marc Courtois-one of Europe’s finest?

At 6’6”, the 20 year old has fantastic footwork, reflexes and awareness, already on display regularly with Athletico Madrid in La Liga for the past two seasons. These abilities and performances have resulted in the rapid progression of the young keeper, and attention on the back of this. However, the youngster has a certain Petr Cech to outshine if he wants to be the main shot stopper at Chelsea, especially with Cech signing a new deal keeping him at Stamford Bridge until 2016. Although he is clearly being groomed for this eventuality, the more time he spends out on loan at other clubs, it seems the better he will become, resulting in Chelsea having a tough task of keeping him on their books. And it’s not as if he is on loan at a lesser club, either, with Athletico Madrid winning the Europa League in his time there, and possessing a quite capable and talented squad to compete well in La Liga. He has also, this season, set a club record of 820 minutes without conceding a league goal. The goalkeeper is firmly on the radar of Europe’s elite.

Making a move to another club on a permanent basis must be enticing prospect for the young keeper, especially with some of the big names being cited. But look at another young goalkeeper in David de Gea; hardly lived up to his multimillion pound price tag, although improving greatly since his shaky start to life at Manchester United. Courtois looks to be performing at a level above de Gea, according to Chelsea anyway, and his form for Athletico Madrid suggests he could even rival Cech’s form, although it’s fair to say he will need to wait a few years yet for this opportunity. With Chelsea recently valuing him at £20 million, it shows just how highly they rate him, although, this is more of a figure to fend off interest it would seem. There is one thing which is certain about the Belgian, and the one thing that could be the main factor in fending off this interest from others, and that is his maturity.

Recently, Courtois has stated his desire to renew his time at Athletico for another year, clearly knowing his position at Chelsea. This appears to be a shrewd move, as he seems quite happy to play the waiting game, identifying that by the time Cech’s contract is up, he will be an established, solid goalkeeper who has great experience in several competitions and is still relatively young for a goalkeeper.He could easily still have a 10 year career at Chelsea as the No.1, and become the main keeper for the Belgium national side. And for Chelsea? Well, they will get their £7 million signing who will eventually develop into a world class keeper, and will be worth three times the amount first paid out. One thing is certain. At 20 years old, it looks like Chelsea have the next truly world class goalkeeper on their hands, and it seems the ball is in their court with regard to how, and when, they use him. Courtois is doing all the right things and making all the right decisions at the moment, and this looks likely to continue. Simply put, patience could be the key for Thibaut Courtois.