It is approaching zero hour in Chelsea’s contract negotiations with Thibaut Courtois.
Although the Blues hold the goalkeeper’s playing rights until his current deal expires in 2016, the Daily Mail has reported they are keen to ink the 21-year-old to an extension that would keep him on the club’s books an additional three years.
Courtois, however, is in no rush to enter into a fresh pact at Stamford Bridge, and on Wednesday told Belgian television outlet Sporza (via Sky) that he didn’t know where he’d be playing next season:
In a short time I will discuss my future with Chelsea, and I want to know their plans. After those discussions I will decide what will be the best option for me. I don’t want to wait too long. It’s not good to begin a World Cup while you’re thinking about transfers.
Courtois’ displays for Atletico Madrid, which earlier this week had him pick up the 2012-13 Zamora Trophy as La Liga’s most stingy goalkeeper, are a major reason why Belgium are considered a dark horse to contend in Brazil in just over six months’ time.
Thibaut Courtois ha recogido hoy el Trofeo Zamora que premia al meta menos goleado de la temporada 2012-13 pic.twitter.com/JU2YmCASg5— ATLETI VUELA ALTO (@_1903_ATLETI) December 2, 2013
And while Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has previously claimed the London outfit "control the situation" per Goal.com, the decision he, club owner Roman Abramovich and his directors arrive at over the next few weeks will almost certainly affect not only Courtois’ future, but those of Petr Cech and Diego Costa as well.
Cech, who has been part of the furniture at Stamford Bridge since 2004, will turn 32 ahead of next season, and while that may still be considered a prime age for a goalkeeper it’s unlikely his current standard of play will last more than a few more years.
It’s thought that Chelsea would prefer to bring in Courtois as Cech’s understudy for at least the 2014-15 campaign, but given that the former has already won Best Goalkeeper honours in both Belgium and Spain—never mind his accomplishments at international level—he would surely balk at the suggestion.
In other words, the Blues have a decision to make: Cech or Courtois?
In keeping Cech, they’d be assuring themselves of another two or three seasons of reliable goalkeeping, although in doing so, they’d pass up on a player who could conceivably tend the nets at a high level for the next decade.
Of course, Courtois’ transfer value is sky-high at the moment, and if Chelsea opted to stay the course with Cech, they’d no doubt get a hefty sum in return for the Belgian.
It’s here that Diego Costa comes into play.
With 18 goals already this season, the Spain international—a teammate of Courtois’ at Atletico Madrid—is quickly establishing a reputation as one of the deadliest strikers in Europe. Marca has reported that Borussia Dortmund are keen for him to replace Robert Lewandowski at season’s end, although the Express has Liverpool, Arsenal and Chelsea tracking him as well.
Should Chelsea want to separate themselves from the pack, they could do so by offering Atletico something the Primer Division side already has: Courtois.
With a £20 million buyout clause, Diego Costa is an affordable option for many clubs. But with Courtois having been so central to their recent successes, Atletico would no doubt find it far more palatable to let the 25-year-old make his widely expected exit while keeping hold of their star goalkeeper.
Chelsea would get the goalscorer they crave, and they could still address their needs between the sticks via the transfer market when Cech finally starts to wane.
It’s a difficult decision with myriad variables and fallouts. But Chelsea will gain nothing by putting it off. The time to make up their minds is now.