Chelsea’s 2011 signing of Thibaut Courtois, a promising young goalkeeper from Belgian side Genk, was initially thought to be further investment by Chelsea in the future of the club. However Courtois’ exceptional development could spell the end of Petr Cech’s association with Chelsea within the next two years.
In the last two seasons spent on loan at Atletico Madrid, Courtois has impressed with his spectacular saves and exceptional ability in one-on-one situations. But it was only during the 2012/13 season that it became truly apparent that Chelsea had purchased a player who could one day become the world’s top 'keeper.
During this period, he won the Zamora Award for the best goals conceded to games ratio, beating off more illustrious goalkeepers such as Victor Valdes and Iker Casillas in the process. These performances have also helped him edge ahead of Sunderland’s Simon Mignolet to become first choice for the Belgian national team.
Pundits and players alike have commented on Courtois’ incredible potential, and he is now widely seen to be among the top three young goalkeepers in the worldwide (along with David De Gea and Marc-Andre ter Stegen) as well as one of the top-ten goalkeepers in the world.
Obviously, this is mostly very positive for Chelsea. The only obvious problem being that they already have one of the world’s top keepers at the club in the form of Petr Cech. Currently Cech is a better keeper, but as Courtois improves and matures and Cech ages and declines, within a few years Courtois will become the better player, leaving Chelsea in a tricky position. Cech has been a stalwart and a figurehead within the Chelsea dressing room for a number of years, while Chelsea fans see him as a club legend.
For the 2013/14 season, Chelsea have postponed the moment of decision by extending Courtois’ loan deal with Atletico for another season. However, Courtois has only signed a five-year contract with Chelsea and if he has not tasted regular Premier League football by that time, he is likely to leave the club. Equally, though, Cech is unlikely to react well to being a backup keeper any time soon, meaning that Chelsea will (probably) have to sell one to keep the other.
Chelsea, then, are faced with this dilemma: young prodigy or aging legend? In my opinion, when the time comes, Chelsea will have to forget sentimentality when making their choice, and, ultimately lose Cech despite his many years of sterling service to the club. The promise of Courtois is simply too good to miss out on.
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