The thought of Thibaut Courtois playing for Real Madrid once seemed impossible. The Belgian goalkeeper spent three successful seasons at Atletico and even mocked Los Blancos during trophy celebrations. Now, however, things are a little different.
After Atleti beat Madrid in the 2013 Copa del Rey final at the Santiago Bernabeu, Courtois poked fun at Real’s fans in a song during his side’s celebrations at the Neptuno fountain. In total, he made 154 appearances for the Rojiblancos and won four trophies.
All of that makes him something of a symbol for Atleti and their supporters. But the 25-year-old, in his fourth season back at Chelsea (who had loaned him to Atletico), now has his heart set on a return to Madrid — and this time he is more likely to end up at Real.
It is no secret that Los Blancos are looking to bring in a new goalkeeper in the near future. The European champions failed in their pursuit of another former Atleti goalkeeper, David de Gea, in 2015 as the paperwork did not go through in time, and in January they considered a move for Athletic Club’s Kepa Arrizabalaga.
Coach Zinedine Zidane is happy with current number one Keylor Navas, but the Frenchman could be under pressure in the summer and the Costa Rican is not seen as a long-term option at the age of 31.
Courtois is out of contract at Stamford Bridge in 2019 and is in talks with the London club over a new deal. However, his two children live in Madrid and he admitted this week that he would be open to a move to Real.
“My personal situation is related to the city of Madrid,” he said in an interview with Sport/Foot in Belgium. “My two children live there with their mum. I have my daughter every day on FaceTime. She often tells me that she misses me. My son is still too small to communicate like that.
“Whenever I have the opportunity, I try to return to Spain. As a situation, it is not always easy. Yes, my heart is in Madrid. It is logical and understandable.
“If they [Real] want me, they have to contact Chelsea. We’ll see. But they have not done that. What is certain is that one day I will return to Madrid. I love Spain, I love the city, I spent three wonderful years there. It is there that I became an adult.”
With Kepa having penned a new deal at Athletic and De Gea also tied down on a long-term contract at Manchester United, Courtois looks like the most viable option for Real if Los Blancos do decide to bring in a new goalkeeper next summer or in the near future.
“I understand that the rumours are coming back today, as we are talking about a new goalkeeper there [at Real],” the Belgian said. “But I do not pay much attention to that, I stay focused on Chelsea.
“If Real are really interested, my personal situation could influence things. The family aspect is priceless. But I repeat to you that, for the moment, I’m busy talking to Chelsea to extend.”
For the moment, as he said, the player is happy in London and also settled after struggling initially to come to terms with a new city, the weather and being away from his family in Madrid.
However, the 25-year-old admits it is tough to be away from his young family — even though he is not together with their mother — and would be tempted if Real followed up their interest this summer.
For their part, Atletico are happy with goalkeeper Jan Oblak (who was bought from Benfica to replace Courtois in 2014), so the Belgian’s hopes of moving back to the Spanish capital appear to rest on Real right now. Watch this space.