There was a time when Petr Cech was almost indisputably considered to be the best goalkeeper in the world. More recently however, his crown has been challenged by more than one other man, and his cause has not been helped by a few seasons in which he has not quite reached the form that we have come to expect from him.
Although Cech has played well this season, in Saturday's 2-2 draw with West Bromwich Albion, he did not put in the type of performance that is required of a Chelsea goalkeeper. He could have dealt with West Brom's first goal better, although you cannot blame him entirely. But for the second goal, there is no doubt that he should have mustered better dive as the ball trickled past him and into the goal.
One bad match does not mean that Cech is a bad player; far from it. Cech is still one of the best goalkeepers in the world, but although he is still relatively young at 31, you have to wonder when Thibaut Courtois will start to be integrated into this Chelsea setup. The young Belgian is making a name for himself with Atletico Madrid, and Chelsea cannot keep him on loan forever.
So when next season rolls around, who should start for Chelsea? Should Courtois get his chance to shine, or is Petr Cech still Chelsea's No. 1? Let's take a look at each player and decide.
Since his arrival in 2004, Petr Cech has established himself as a Premier League legend. In just over 300 EPL matches, he has 148 clean sheets and has made a total of 630 saves.
Despite some high-profile errors for his national team, the Czech has consistently provided big performances for Chelsea when it has mattered most.
Almost half of his performances last season ended with clean sheets, but that percentage has decreased for the start of this season, with Cech only keeping three clean sheets of the 11 matches so far. According to Squawka, Cech only has to make an average of 1.55 saves per game, so you have to wonder why the number of clean sheets is not much higher.
He may have made some errors on Saturday, but he is a good enough keeper to brush them off in time for Chelsea's next match, against West Ham after the international break.
At just 21 years old, Thibaut Courtois is a remarkable talent. Through three successive loan spells, he has already established himself as Atletico Madrid's No. 1 goalkeeper and is also the first choice in goal for his native Belgium.
He is the Petr Cech of his generation, if you will.
He has no shortage of confidence, telling the Telegraph earlier this month, "I am in my best form and I feel like I am among the five best goalkeepers in the world."
Certainly confidence is a good thing in a goalkeeper, and he has results to back up his claims. However, the real question is, if Courtois is in the top five, is Cech still higher than him?
Jose Mourinho said it best when he stated (via MSN) that Chelsea have "the best goalkeeper in the world and the best young goalkeeper in the world."
Whether you agree that Cech is still the best goalie in the world or not, there is no denying the experience and skill that he still exudes on a regular basis. Cech has the ability to come good on big nights, when the team needs him the most.
There is a decision that will need to be made at the end of this season, however. Courtois cannot be loaned to Atletico Madrid another season, and there will be no shortage of clubs lining up to bid for his signature.
Since he has made it clear that he does not want to return to Chelsea if he cannot be guaranteed a starting place, do Chelsea decide to bring him back at the expense of Cech?
The two players might have seasons that dictate otherwise, but if nothing changes, the answer for now has to be no.
Cech could conceivably play for another 10 years at the top level. And most top-class goalkeepers only become better with age and experience.
Chelsea might want to consider loaning Courtois out to another Premier League club to test his skill in a different league, but they could also cash in while he is still a hot commodity.
Although Courtois is a good young goalkeeper, he does not have enough experience at the highest level to warrant potentially losing Petr Cech. Another season on loan, this time in the Premier League, might just be the perfect way to prepare him to take up the mantle as Chelsea's No. 1. It is one that he could readily carry—just not quite yet.