Jose Mourinho has made the painful decision to bench Petr Cech and make Thibaut Courtois his No. 1 goalkeeper at Chelsea FC. The outcome was always going to be a difficult one — upset a loyal servant of ten years or risk losing the best young goalkeeper in the world.
So far, the decision certainly seems justified. Courtois played two league games for Chelsea and has definitely impressed. He made an acrobatic save in the season opener against Burnley and pulled off key stops against Leicester City this weekend. He is probably responsible for the Leicester victory because at 1-0 down, things would have been very different for Chelsea.
The situation is quite unfortunate for Cech. He is still at the top of his game with lots to offer. He worked hard to recover from shoulder surgery to get himself in shape during the offseason.
The Czech International has been at the club since 2004, and he was the first choice keeper since being promoted by Mourinho after Carlo Cudicini suffered an elbow injury ten years ago. Cech has made over 450 appearances for Chelsea, and he has won everything with the club. He holds the record for most Premier League clean sheets (161), also winning the Golden Glove award twice. Cech has kept 220 clean sheets in all competitions for Chelsea.
To displace such a respected and productive player is no easy feat, but Courtois has done it. The Belgian signed for Chelsea three years ago but immediately went to Atletico Madrid on loan. He spent three seasons in Spain, winning the La Liga title, Copa Del Rey, UEFA Europa League and the UEFA Supercup with Atletico.
The Belgian also collected individual honors, as he won the Ricardo Zamora trophy (awarded to the goalkeeper who has the lowest “goals-to-games” ratio) twice and also claimed the La Liga Goalkeeper of The Year Award.
Mourinho has given his reasons for the selection; he stated that he puts Chelsea first and always tries to put the club in the best position to win. He has also said that they would have lost Courtois as he would be unwilling to sign a contract extension as a fringe player.
The decision does make sense. Cech is already 32, and if Chelsea were to lose Courtois, they would have to go back to the market for a younger keeper in a few years time.
Courtois is already proving his worth with some strong performances. He is a huge presence in the box, towering over most opponents. He has shown the willingness to leave his comfort zone and snatch balls out of the air. The Belgian has wonderful reaction time and impressive agility. He has already displayed his ability to make top drawer saves. Courtois has also demonstrated pinpoint distribution which is of immense value, as he could start a counter-attack with a throw from the box.
As it stands, Chelsea have the two best goalkeepers in the world; many club managers would love such a conundrum. Cech is a professional, and by the looks of things, he is willing to stay and fight for his place. His manager and teammates have praised his efforts in training, and they claim that nothing has changed. He will get his minutes; the season will be long, with lots of games and competitions.
Mourinho’s decision appears to be the right one. If Cech stays, the club will enjoy the best of both words — the youthful exuberance of Courtois and the invaluable experience of Cech. Things may just work out between the sticks for Chelsea.