UEFA has confirmed Thibaut Courtois can play against Chelsea in the Champions League without Atletico Madrid needing to pay a £2.5 million fee per game.
The Belgian goalkeeper is currently on loan from the Blues to Atletico—his third stint with the Spanish club—and will meet his parent club in a two-legged European semi-final tie, confirmed by UEFA.
Reports claimed Atletico would have to stump up £2.5 million for each match, per Adrian Kajumba of the Daily Star, but UEFA has now overruled the clause.
An official statement was released by the governing body, indicating the Premier League's rules—in which a loanee cannot face his own team—are not enforced away from England:
Both the UEFA Champions League and the UEFA Disciplinary Regulations contain clear provisions which strictly forbid any club to exert, or attempt to exert, any influence whatsoever over the players that another club may (or may not) field in a match.
It follows that any provision in a private contract between clubs which might function in such a way as to influence who a club fields in a match is null, void and unenforceable so far as UEFA is concerned.
UEFA also confirmed Chelsea would be "sanctioned accordingly" if they try to enforce a stance which could have seen Courtois ruled out of two immensely important contests.
Chelsea chief executive Ron Gourlay indicated Courtois will play, per Sky Sports and via Sam Lee of Goal.com:
The loan was arranged back at the start of the season and it's quite simple: Thibaut can play against Chelsea, that was never in doubt. Regarding the Uefa statement that came out, we'll evaluate that in due course over the next 24-48 hours.
Enrique Cerezo, Atletico's president, confirmed the club wouldn't be able to afford an expense that seems rather extortionate for 90 minutes' work. "It's a number we can't afford to pay," said Cerezo, per Kajumba.
The Spanish chief will undoubtedly breathe a huge sigh of relief now Courtois' participation suffers no lingering doubts, a major blow—and perhaps oversight—for Chelsea now they are to come up against the Rojiblancos.
Courtois' clause was inserted after he helped Atletico to a comfortable UEFA Super Cup win over Chelsea back in 2012, per Matt Law of The Telegraph:
Courtois was part of the Atlético team who beat Chelsea in the final of the Uefa Super Cup in 2012. It is believed that prompted Chelsea to insert a clause into his latest deal that means the La Liga club must also pay for the Belgian to play against his parent club.
This isn't the first time UEFA has needed to confirm its stance on loan signings. Back in 2013, the governing body confirmed Mo Bangura was eligible to play for Elfsborg against parent club Celtic, per Grant Russell of STV.
Interestingly, Spanish football expert Sid Lowe indicates UEFA's latest statement represents a change in heart:
Curiously, UEFA yesterday briefed that rules do not say anything about loans and that therefore any agreement Chelsea-Atletico would stand— Sid Lowe (@sidlowe) April 11, 2014
The Mirror's John Cross also suggested Courtois' fee is nothing out of the ordinary:
Clubs regularly pay loan fees to each other. Nothing wrong in that. So how can UEFA enforce a clause of that Courtois loan agreement? Odd.— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) April 11, 2014
Courtois' performances will now be under major scrutiny during the Chelsea clashes. Should he send Atletico to victory with a number of stunning saves, it's likely the English club will feel aggrieved. If he makes a match-defining mistake, it will inevitably lead to wild suggestions he deliberately threw the game.
The two teams will meet on April 23 and 29. Courtois has less than two weeks to make sure he is in top form, as if he is to ever be installed as No. 1 at Stamford Bridge, this is the moment to convince.