Barcelona president Sandro Rosell has spoken to the Spanish media of his liking for Chelsea-owned goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, as the Catalan side continue their search for a new long-term No. 1.
With established first-team keeper Victor Valdes having stated he will leave the club at the end of his current contract in 2014—per BBC Sport, Rosell is now in the process of finding a replacement for next season.
I want to try until the last moment for Valdes to stay at Barça but that is difficult. Also we are working for the substitute. Courtois? He is a big keeper, very good and personally I like him.
Rosell's comments are just the latest development in a series of reports from Spain indicating an interest from the Camp Nou in the Atletico Madrid loanee.
Now in his third season away from Stamford Bridge, Courtois has been a major success at Atletico—where he had a tough act to follow in Manchester United No. 1 David de Gea.
So good has he been that, in the 2012-13 season, Courtois won the Zamora Trophy awarded to the goalkeeper with the league's best goals-conceded record—leaking just 29 over the course of the campaign.
The Belgian has been consistently excellent over the past two years and, at just 21, is widely regarded as one of the world's top young goalkeepers. At Chelsea, though, his path to regular first-team football is blocked by the 31-year-old Petr Cech, who still potentially has several years at the top level ahead of him.
In May, per the Independent's Pete Jenson, Courtois spoke positively about Chelsea and their plans for his future. However, on Tuesday morning Catalan outlet Sport reported that the young shot-stopper did not want a return to England and instead favours Barcelona, as summarised in English by Metro.
Were that to be the case, it would be a blow to Chelsea regardless of Cech's presence. Courtois has proved he is an exceptional talent, and it would hurt the Blues to see him leave—regardless of what price he would bring.
Indeed, Courtois and his fellow Belgians raise many questions about Chelsea's current recruitment policies.
Eden Hazard may be an important member of the first team, but Kevin De Bruyne finds himself sidelined and Romelu Lukaku has been loaned out once more, despite 17 Premier League goals for West Brom last season.
All would have known the risk of not being a first-team regular upon signing at Stamford Bridge but now have international ambitions to protect.
Indeed, all have proved themselves to be outstanding players in what would be considered a top European league and, thus, are somewhat entitled to expect more opportunities at Chelsea.
For now, though, they are not forthcoming, and it remains to be seen how long the players will remain patient—especially as new signings arrive. Courtois, as the reports from Spain suggest, is already becoming restless.
For Barcelona, any such desire on behalf of Courtois to leave would present a fantastic opportunity. The youngster is potentially a better keeper than Valdes, is still early in his career and already has experience in Spain to fall back on.
Chelsea will know that Courtois' situation cannot continue past this season and must now decide between him and Cech. It is difficult to let go of a player of Cech's ability, but Courtois' potential to be the club's No. 1 for the next 15 years could be an important factor in any decision.
A tough call awaits Jose Mourinho and his backroom staff next summer, but selling Courtois to Barcelona would be a backward step for a club supposedly looking to establish a coherent long-term philosophy.