What Should Chelsea Do with on-Loan Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois?

Rowanne Westhenry@@agirlintheshedFeatured ColumnistMarch 29, 2013

BRUSSELS, BELGIUM - OCTOBER 16:  Thibaut Courtois of Belgium celebrates their first goal during the FIFA 2012 World Cup Qualifier match between Belgium and Scotland on October 16, 2012 in Brussels, Belgium.  (Photo by Scott Heavey/Getty Images)
Scott Heavey/Getty Images

Chelsea have a glut of young Belgian stars on their books, one of whom is goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Signed from Genk on a five-year deal in 2011 for £7 million, he is halfway through a second season-long loan at Atletico Madrid. The 20-year-old has set a new club record of 820 minutes without conceding a goal in La Liga and is desperate to continue playing regular first-team football.

This presents a big problem for the Blues. Current first-choice keeper Petr Cech recently signed a contract extension which keeps him at Stamford Bridge until 2016. Courtois' current deal is due to expire at the same time and the Chelsea hierarchy will need to decide whether he has a future at the club, fast.

Barcelona want Courtois, according to the Daily Mirror, and if he stays in Spain for the 2013-14 season the likelihood of Chelsea retaining his services is slim. The problem is that Cech is only 30 years old—relatively young for a goalkeeper—and his heroics over the years have been crucial to their success. Courtois' youth makes him an excellent prospect for the future, but as he has made it clear that he does not want to act as Cech's backup, Chelsea's options are limited.

The next step for the youngster should be another season on loan, this time in the Premier League. That way his talents can be put to the test in the competition that would form the backbone of his future at Chelsea and the club would be able to make a well-informed decision in 2014 as to whether he is ready to replace Cech between the sticks.

If they decide he is ready, they should be able to command a fee of around £8-10 million for Cech as he will turn 32 years old in May 2014, giving any potential buyers at least three years of value on a deal. Alternatively, if Chelsea decide that Courtois is not the right fit for the club they can sell him to the highest bidder, having reportedly put a minimum price of £20 million on any transfer fee.

Whatever they decide to do they will need to move quickly so as not to alienate an exciting prospect for the future of the club.