Thibaut Courtois' UCL Final Appearance Bolsters Experience for Chelsea

Garry Hayes@@garryhayesFeatured ColumnistMay 24, 2014

There aren't many 22-year-olds who can boast a La Liga winners' medal, Europa League, Copa del Rey and Champions League to their CV.

Come Saturday evening, Thiubaut Courtois may well be in a position to do just that.

Chelsea's Belgian goalkeeper has enjoyed a fruitful three-year loan spell with Atletico Madrid—a move that has outlined the positive impact such deals between clubs can have.

Had the Belgian not moved to the Vicente Calderon Stadium in 2011, he would have played the role of understudy to Petr Cech and seen his first-team opportunities severely hampered.

Now, Chelsea have a decision to make. Do they bring Courtois back to west London to replace Cech as their No. 1, or is he forced to watch from the sidelines, frustrated at not being afforded an opportunity?

It's a Catch-22 of sorts, with Chelsea losing equally as much as they gain.

With Courtois in goal, manager Jose Mourinho has the future at his fingertips. With Cech, he has a player who has served the club so well in his decade in English football and remains perfectly able.

Either way, it's going to be difficult, yet with each trophy he lifts, the pendulum swings in Courtois' favor.

How can Mourinho not give a Champions League winner a chance?

It's simplehe can't.

Should Courtois return permanently to Stamford Bridge this summer, he would do so a far different player to the one who departed in 2011.

Back then, aged 19, he was nothing more than raw talent, a young boy with dreams of becoming the first-choice goalkeeper for a major club. Now, he undoubtedly is.

Chelsea witnessed his rise first-hand with two commanding displays in the Champions League semi-final last season—Courtois making an excellent save to deny John Terry moments before Diego Costa scored his penalty that all but eliminated the Blues.

Atleti's route to the Champions League final in Lisbon has been about the team ethic Diego Simeone has created, and Courtois has been a considerable part of it.

The case for him replacing Cech wasn't even a discussion three years ago, although now it cannot be ignored.

This summer will be defined by the World Cup in Brazil, and bubbling under the surface is going to be the significant changes we are witnessing in football.

Ashley Cole's exclusion from the England squad—losing out to the 18-year-old Luke Shaw—has been the most notable for Chelsea and England fans, and we are going to see more.

Jose Mourinho spoke about transition at Stamford Bridge last season, and the Portuguese is serious when he outlines his plans to make Chelsea world-beaters again.

If he is to do so, it will require that ruthless streak he has grown famous for wielding.

Last year, Juan Mata fell victim to it, shipped off to Manchester United within six months of Mourinho being in charge. And as he continues to shape Chelsea more in his vision, David Luiz has already followed Mata's exit after the Blues agreed to sell him to Paris Saint-Germain, per

Cech is no longer competing with a potential rival. Courtois is the real deal, a bona fide goalkeeper of significant class.

With a Champions League winners' medal around his neck, it will be difficult for Mourinho to not fall for Courtois' talents.

Garry Hayes is Bleacher Report's lead Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter @garryhayes


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