Chelsea pulled off two magnificent signings in the form of Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas this summer, but perhaps their best bit of business came after the transfer window closed. By securing the services of Thibaut Courtois for the next five years, the Blues can rest easy knowing the best goalkeeper in the world is staying at Stamford Bridge.
Courtois finally put pen-to-paper on a contract extension after Jose Mourinho made it clear to the Belgium international that, following his return from Atletico Madrid, he was now Chelsea’s undisputed first-choice goalkeeper ahead of Petr Cech.
Courtois is better than Cech
Cech, of course, has been a fabulous servant for Chelsea and will go down as one of the best keepers of the Premier League era. But Courtois, ten years Cech’s junior, is undoubtedly a better all-round product.
Mourinho said that he made the difficult decision to go for Courtois because of his age. But you get the feeling that if Cech was ten years younger, the world-class Belgian would still get the nod.
Courtois: Also better than Neuer?
There was no better goalkeeper in world football last season than Courtois; not Cech, not David de Gea or Diego Lopez. And not even Manuel Neuer, who the large majority consider to be the world’s best in his position at the moment thanks to his exploits with Bayern Munich and the Germany national team.
His status as the world’s best keeper was significantly enhanced by Germany winning the World Cup in Brazil this summer - but is the commanding 28-year-old really a better goalkeeper than Courtois?
The first thing you want in a goalkeeper is reliability - and it’s hard to find a safer pair of hands than Courtois’ in world football right now.
Neuer - on the other hand, and contrary to popular belief - almost borders on being a liability when he suffers one of those all-too-common sudden rushes of blood to the head. He leaves his manager and supporters with their hearts in their mouths by charging out of his goal to tackle a defender or head the ball clear.
Even though his decision making on the whole is pretty good, he doesn’t get lucky all of the time - as this video demonstrates.
There have been plenty of other examples over the years of Neuer costing his side goals by rushing off his line without taking due care, but Courtois is unlikely to make the same mistakes too many times during his career because he possesses a very different mentality.
Courtois is calmness personified
Courtois oozes calmness and his defenders know they can trust him 100 per cent to make the right decisions. Furthermore, every time the ball is crossed into the box, Courtois - thanks to his 6ft 6in frame - alleviates the pressure off his defence by simply catching the ball.
There is not a goalkeeper on the planet who catches the ball as well as Courtois. This may sound like a basic attribute, but so many keepers opt to punch these days that it’s become a dying art.
Atletico Madrid, the reigning La Liga champions and last season’s Champions League finalists, will miss Courtois more than Filipe Luis or even Costa this season. He was that important to Diego Simeone’s side and the Spanish club were bitterly disappointed - but not surprised - that Chelsea denied them the chance to keep him for a fourth consecutive season.
Courtois has already helped Chelsea win points this season, and there’s a good chance he’ll help them win their first Premier League title since 2010 next May - or possibly sooner.
Mourinho would not swap Courtois for any other goalkeeper because he’s the best in the world - as well as a future all-time great.