Thibaut Courtois has earned respect, even though he used to be mocked
The hero of the playoffs in the Champions League
And yet Real Madrid lost at home to Sheriff. It was like an event from another distant era. But no, the setback against a modest club happened last autumn. Courtois went from conceding a goal from former Tambov midfielder Till to making saves in the final of the Champions League against Salah. Ancelotti promised the Belgian on the eve of the season that they would take the famous cup, because until then the goalkeeper had only lost the final to Real Madrid in the Atletico in 2014.
We should not also forget the score of the Spaniards’ return match against Sheriff – an away win 0:3. Rematch is the essence of the team from Madrid. While Liverpool have beaten the stronger teams – Inter, Benfica and Villarreal – Ancelotti’s side have been the favourites of the tournament. PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City, along with the future finalists, were among the odds leaders. Real Madrid were disbelieved because of the way they played defense. Without Varan and Ramos, it was different.
The Frenchman and Spaniard also made mistakes – Courtois had enough work in La Liga a year ago, but with Eder and Alaba under such pressure as in Paris, or against Chelsea at home, everything shone to the skill of the goalkeeper. Thibaut was conceding from all opponents, Real Madrid was losing. But while for Ancelotti it was Courtois’s saves – he is the leader of the LL both in the ratio of shots to saves (even the Villarreal goalkeeper is behind), and in the number of saves per complete game on average. Here, the Belgian is ahead of Benfica’s main goalkeeper.
Courtois is now on a par with Can and van der Sar. Prior to the Belgian, only two goalkeepers had earned the award, and in matches that ended in a penalty shootout. Attacking players were awarded more often – Zidane, Decu, Inzaghi, Milito, Drogba, Robben, Di Maria, Messi and Ronaldo. But yesterday, although Benzema and Vinicius played great, and Real Madrid’s holding midfielder Casemiro played great, the Belgian’s award did not embarrass anyone, neither opponents nor teammates.
Thibaut did not forget about Liverpool fans after the match. He wished the health of anyone who got hurt by the Paris police or robbers after the final (they say it’s not the first time street thieves are waiting for the crowd near the subway). There were also Reds fans who couldn’t get to the final in time with a real ticket. Courtois both played great and showed humanity-the hero of the evening.
The main goalkeeper of a difficult La Liga
Courtois’ story at Real Madrid is a bit like Modric’s. At first it did not seem to everyone that the bet on Thibaut was correct – they remembered the love of the goalkeeper for the goals conceded under himself since the “Chelsea”. Back then, De Hea’s stock was still quoted high, and the wild story with the fax and the documents was not forgotten. But the Belgian, having returned to Madrid – he was immediately written up as a traitor by Atletico fans – won the trust of Real Madrid fans.
Modric was hailed as a disappointment after his first season. Courtois only repelled 70% of his shots in his debut league season. But in the three years since, he has made hundreds of saves in La Liga. “Real” was third with Thibaut, but then won two championships in two years. Understandably, the fortunes of Atletico and Barcelona this season have made the Belgian and his French counterpart Benzema’s job easier, but they have played fabulously in the championship and Champions League.
Real Madrid won the Spanish championship for the 35th time, Barcelona were noticeably behind the principle enemy, and no one will remember the defeat in the El Clasico. And who will remember, they will be reminded of the score of the Catalan match against Eintracht, the winner of the Europa League. While Xavi only builds, Ancelotti intelligently rebuilds Real, relying on the reaction of Courtois. We started to play differently than before. There are young players like Valverde. Benzema will now definitely get the Ballon d’Or – by the way, his goal was taken away by the referees controversially, because they considered the rebound from Fabinho as a ricochet and not deliberate play.
Repeated Menin’s exploits in Serie A
Courtois was as important to Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League as the Milan goalkeeper was to his team in Serie A. “The Rossoneri were unsuccessful in European competitions, leaving the group in last place with Liverpool. But in the Italian championship with Ibrahimovic won for the first time in eleven years. In the forefront, in addition to Hernandez, Leau and joker Giroud was also the French champion from Lille.
As we can see, crazy save saves are still in high demand. Let’s remember Euro 2020 – Donnarumma was named the best player of the tournament. And let’s remember Benzema’s fatal mistake of Gianluigi. Courtois did not allow himself to make such blunders at the crucial moment, and yesterday he surpassed his famous performance in the playoffs of the 2018 World Cup against Brazil. Then he made eight saves, and his team passed the “celesao” and managed to win the World Cup in the end, and yesterday Courtois had nine saves in the evening – a crazy figure.
The PSG Frenchman has an insane difference between expected and actual goals. But Courtois, though Real Madrid is the clear favorite in La Liga, has exactly twice as many goals, 14 compared to 7. “The ‘Slivos’ could have conceded almost 50% more goals, and in such circumstances a comfortable title with a thirteen-point advantage would have been ruled out. Courtois, like Benzema and Vinicius, bailed out Ancelotti’s team when there were problems with the game of soccer.
But character is in place, as is individual skill. There are goalkeepers who can have a brief career slump and then come back. Sometimes they get lost for reasons unconnected with soccer, like Casillas or Buffon. Courtois turned out to be exactly of that breed, and that’s a compliment. He survived ridicule in a Chelsea shirt, where he also helped out at times, although he did not become a legend like Petr Cech. Then he was brought back to Spain and eventually earned the number one at Real Madrid. Yesterday he played the main match of his career. Ancelotti now has a whole bunch of five-time Champions League winners, and Courtois has his first, such a coveted trophy.