Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois has never been shy to voice his opinion, and he was at it again on Friday when he told reporters he "didn't have an emotional attachment" with the club following his latest season on loan at Atletico Madrid.
Jose Mourinho could recall the player back to Stamford Bridge next season, but after three years in the Spanish capital, it seems very likely Courtois will never be suiting up for the Blues again.
Speaking to Sport-Bild (via The Guardian's Gary Payne), Courtois was very critical of his relationship with the club, explaining how the fans and players of Atletico see him as a part of their team. The stopper said:
The fans and my team-mates have not seen me as a player being on loan there.
I have no emotional attachment to Chelsea. They did sign me for €9m in 2011 but since then I have only been in London for my medical.
Chelsea didn’t want to loan me out last summer either. But I wanted to stay in Madrid. And this summer it will go on again and it will be even harder to find a solution.
Previous comments from the Belgian international had usually revolved around a lack of playing time or his position behind club legend Petr Cech in the club hierarchy, but these latest quotes are his strongest yet.
According to GianlucaDiMarzio.com's David Amoyal, the youngster recognises the situation at the club, as he told the BBC a return to London doesn't strike him as a good idea:
The fans, meanwhile, seem to be growing tired of the player's tendency to speak up against his parent club, particularly given his relative inexperience:
Yes, Courtois can come across as arrogant, or even conceited. His spat with Liverpool's Simon Mignolet back in February, as reported by The Daily Mail's John Edwards, made international headlines for all the wrong reasons.
There was nothing wrong with Mignolet showing healthy ambition, and Courtois' reaction (calling his compatriot "disrespectful" for wanting to start) was uncalled for, and almost childish.
But those comments need to be seen in the right light. The best athletes in the world are often labeled as arrogant (think of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Kobe Bryant or Floyd Mayweather), and it's something that comes with the territory.
These performers are confident in their own abilities, and for good reason. They're not afraid to let the world know, and they use the energy of those comments and their belief in the message to fuel future performances.
It's part of what makes Courtois great, and it's why he can't coexist with Cech.
At the tender age of 22, the Belgian is already one of the world's best stoppers. He has been selected as La Liga's best in back-to-back seasons, and via the Champions League's official Twitter account, even Iker Casillas acknowledged his greatness:
You could make the argument he's already the very best in the world, and you can be damn sure that's what Courtois believes. For him, sitting quietly behind Cech isn't an option.
Cech isn't just going to give up his spot as the starter either. He's a club legend, a player Jose Mourinho trusts more than most and a beloved figure among the fans. No one wants to see an ugly split between the veteran goalkeeper and the club, who have been so successful together.
Courtois, on the other hand, has no connection with the club. He loves the city of Madrid, his teammates and the club, who are going through their most successful season in recent history.
A player who believes he's the best in the world has no interest in a battle for the starting position, particularly against someone who's been the default starter for close to a decade.
Courtois wants to stay in Madrid, and the feeling is mutual. Mourinho would love to keep the stopper with the club, but unless he's willing to part with a club icon in Cech, it simply can't happen. And it might not even be enough, not with the player speaking so highly of Atletico.
The main positive for the Blues will be the large transfer fee they would receive from the Spanish champions for the services of one of the world's greatest shot-stoppers. Courtois could even be used in an attempt to lure star striker Diego Costa to London, in a swap-plus-cash deal.
But no matter how you look at the situation, it's hard to envision any scenario in which Courtois defends the colours of Chelsea in the near future. And should it come to an exit in the 2014 summer transfer window, a reunion at any point in the future could very well be no more than a pipe dream.
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