Thibaut Courtois has sent a very clear statement to Liverpool No. 1 and fellow Belgian international Simon Mignolet regarding their competition for Marc Wilmots' goalkeeping selection.
The Chelsea stopper, currently enjoying a third consecutive loan spell with Atletico Madrid, has hit out at Mignolet for questioning the national team coach's choice over who guards the Belgium goal.
Per The Sun (h/t ESPN FC):
When someone says he’s been unfairly dropped as Belgium’s No. 1 keeper I see it as a personal attack on me. It shows you don’t accept your manager’s calls -- and you have no respect for the first choice. He needs to show respect for whoever is currently in that role.
In November 2013, in friendly games against Japan and Colombia, Belgium lost back-to-back outings for the first time since 2010. Mignolet was the man in goal.
Who should be Belgium's No. 1 choice?
Wilmots is fortunate in that he has two such talented keepers to choose from, but it's a jostle for game time that has led to a less-than-amicable relationship between the pair.
This week saw Courtois' Atletico side manage to take a 1-0 lead from the first leg of their Champions League round of 16 fixture against Milan. The stopper put in a choice selection of saves en route to an 18th clean sheet of the club season, per Transfermarkt.
Diego Costa was full of praise for the team's No. 1, per the ESPN FC report.
In his post-match comments, he noted: "Courtois is one of the best goalkeepers in the world and he knows it. With a keeper like him, we feel more secure."
Meanwhile, Transfermarkt shows that Mignolet has only managed to keep seven clean sheets this term, although it would be unfair to compare individual influence based solely on such statistics.
In any case, BT Sport's Archie Rhind-Tutt is of the impression that Courtois is the rightful owner of the No. 1 jersey:
Simon Mignolet is a great keeper but he's not even the best in Belgium - Thibaut Courtois— Archie Rhind-Tutt (@archiert1) December 29, 2012
The top keeping spot is Courtois' for now, but just where Wilmots plans to take his selection in the near future is up for debate. A key period lies ahead for both goalkeepers, too, considering the 2014 World Cup is now less than four months away.
Courtois is currently in a battle to help Atleti break up the La Liga duopoly held by Barcelona and Real Madrid, with Los Rojiblancos sitting level on points with the pair after 24 outings this league season.
Should that hunt be a successful one, it's likely to only enamour the 21-year-old further with his national mentor.