Thibaut Courtois: The rock of Belgium
The sky is the limit for ‘Tarantula’, one of the much saying nicknames of Thibaut Courtois. He started his career as a defender in 1997 with team Bilzerse VV. One year later he moved to Racing Genk where he was formed as a goalkeeper, a decision they weren’t going to regret…
He played his first game for the first team on April 17, 2009 against AA Gent at the age of 16. After Genk bought the Hungarian goalkeeper Laszlo Köteles he had to wait a season for a new chance to play. When Genk played against the Finnish side Inter Turku in the third preliminary of the Euroleague on the 29 of July 2010 after Köteles wasn’t allowed to play due to his license not being ready and Koen Casteels being injured. Genk won with 1-5 and Thibaut wasn’t going to be replaced anymore.
Too bad for Koen Casteels, because up until this moment they regarded him as even more promising then Courtois. During that first season, Genk was coached by Franky Vercauteren and they had a phenomenal season that ended with their third title after a final game in the playoffs against Standard, where Courtois made at least three super saves. He gained the attention of many European top teams, but moved to Chelsea for a fee of €9 million, at that moment a record for the Genk side. Chelsea sent him out on loan to Atletico Madrid, where he has just completed his second season and has been performing on a level that could very well be high enough to replace Petr Cech next season.
Let’s not forget that the young goalkeeper at the age of 21 has already won the Euro League, The European Super Cup and, on an individual level, won the Zamora trophy in Spain this year becoming the goalkeeper with the least goals against. He has also broken the record of Abel Resino, who kept his nets clean for 800 minutes in 1991 for Atletico Madrid. And to top it all off, Courtois also made it into the squad of the best eleven players in the Primera Division this season.
Due to his excellent performances, he made his debut for the Belgian Red Devils in a friendly game in and against France on the 15th November 2011 , and kept his nets clean in a game ending 0-0. Since then he is the undisputed number one of the team, although Simon Mignolet is not far behind. But is has to said that Courtois had quite a few excellent games without making any errors so far. In the first six games in the qualification group for Brazil 2014, only Perisic was able to score against the Belgian team. In the game against Serbia he had to make a few superb saves to help the Devils, or they would have had a whole different game on their hands. The question is where the career of this promising goalkeeper is going to lead to, but for now it really looks as if the sky is the limit.
Chelsea and Mourinho will loan him out another year to Atletico Madrid. Thibaut Courtois also asked for it because it is important for the youngster to be a certitude in goal at club level as he aims for the World Championship 2014 in Brazil. With Mignolet who just signed a five-year contract at Anfield Road it seems a wise decision of the intelligent young goalkeeper.
Bjorn de Cock and guest-writer: Steve Wuestenbergs