• Courtois in crisis! Real Madrid keeper in career-worst form
    20:19 | 06/09/2019

    The Belgian won the Golden Glove at the World Cup in 2018, but his time at the Santiago Bernabeu has been far from impressive.

    With Real Madrid‘s No.1 jersey vacant last week following Keylor Navas’ departure to Paris Saint-Germain, it’s perhaps fitting that Thibaut Courtois has remained with the No.13 on his back.

    Not once in Courtois’ senior club career has he worn the No.1 shirt – instead preferring to stick with the superstitiously unlucky number he inherited at Atletico Madrid in 2011.

    Now into his second season at his former club’s local rivals, the fact the Belgian still doesn’t have the No.1 on his back is symbolic of the increasingly shaky nature of his current spot between the sticks.

    Having conceded in his past 11 La Liga games, Courtois is on his longest ever league run without a clean sheet – conceding 16 goals across that span.

    In Real’s most recent match against Villarreal, the 27-year-old was somewhat culpable for both goals in a 2-2 draw as he only managed to parry initial shots which were quickly slotted past him.

    It was a performance that fans at the Santiago Bernabeu have begun to expect, with the club’s faithful quickly losing patience with a player who arrived back in Madrid as arguably the world’s best goalkeeper.

    Starring for Belgium at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, making a tournament-high 27 saves and keeping three clean sheets, Courtois was unsurprisingly awarded the prestigious Golden Glove.

    Following four solid seasons at Chelsea, where he won the Premier League’s Golden Glove in 2016-17, he was inevitably lured back to Madrid and signed a six-year deal with Real in August 2018.

    Initially struggling to dethrone Navas in goal, Courtois did eventually secure his place as Real’s first-choice keeper but has failed to truly cement it with a number of shaky performances and even attracted the now unwanted comparison to a ‘Belgian Joe Hart’.

    Though not helped by a club that was in crisis last season, Courtois’ statistics so far at the Santiago Bernabeu make for concerning reading.

    Across his 30 appearances in La Liga to date for Real, he has conceded 40 goals, kept eight clean sheets and boasts a save percentage of just 65 – compared to the 70 and 72 per cent save success rates he enjoyed at Chelsea and Atletico respectively.

    In all competitions last season, Courtois conceded 1.37 goals each game – a far cry from the 0.81 he let in while playing under an admittedly more defensive Diego Simeone.

    While forced to make marginally more saves each game with Zinedine Zidane’s side, his performances between the sticks have simply failed to inspire much confidence, with his coach not afraid to mix things up last season.

    “Keylor – I like him but I like Courtois as well,” Zidane said in March after playing Navas instead of Courtois against Celta Vigo.

    “Thibaut has shown that he is a great goalkeeper but I want Keylor to feel important too. Madrid need two, three, four great keepers. So the coach always has the problem.

    “You cannot contest four, five or six competitions with just one great goalkeeper.”

    Though Navas has moved on from Real, Courtois faces fresh competition from Alphonse Areola – a player not content to play back-up and arriving in Madrid with a mandate from France boss Didier Deschamps that he must be playing.

    “We will see in time if I have a problem,” Deschamps said recently.

    “It is always better if goalkeepers have playing time. The situation is now complicated a little bit. If he does not play at all it can become problematic, but we will see at our next squad gathering in October.”

    Having previously impressed in Spain with Villarreal, the 26-year-old was largely preferred over Gianluigi Buffon for the No.1 spot at PSG last season to prove he is no second-choice keeper.

    After being urged to make a loan move to Real by Zidane, Areola arrives back in La Liga ready to pounce should Courtois continue to struggle in goal, with the Belgian boldly declaring in pre-season the starting spot was his to lose.

    “I think it is clear who is the No.1 now. I feel stronger than ever,” Courtois told Het Nieuwsblad.

    “I have trained hard and I am fit. At the end of last summer my percentage of body fat was 8.8 per cent and I came back after the summer with it at 8.1 per cent. I feel good and I hope to carry on like this.”

    While he may have trimmed some fat, Courtois simply must start cutting out his mistakes between the sticks, otherwise 2018’s best goalkeeper could soon find himself stuck on the bench and in serious crisis.

    Source – Goal.com

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