Belgium boss Marc Wilmots has claimed Chelsea are ready to sell veteran goalkeeper Petr Cech as they prepare to make Thibaut Courtois their No. 1 next season.
The 32-year-old shot-stopper has been at Stamford Bridge since 2004 and has never genuinely been threatened as first-choice keeper since he saw off initial rival Carlo Cudicini.
However, the young Belgian Courtois has spent three impressive seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid and now seems likely to return to West London on a full-time basis.
Wilmots—Courtois' national team coach at the World Cup in Brazil—was heard on Belgian TV discussing Chelsea's goalkeeping issue with former Liverpool manager Gerard Houllier, per Simon Johnson in the Evening Standard:
"Yes, he (Courtois) will be returning to Chelsea this summer. Will they sell Cech? Yes, probably."
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Cech injured his shoulder in the Blues' Champions League semi-final first leg against Atletico at the end of last season, and subsequently had surgery from which he is struggling to recover in time for pre-season.
The 22-year-old Courtois played a major role in Atletico's first La Liga title since 1996, appearing in 37 of the 38 games as his side conceded just 26 goals, fewer than any other team in the league.
Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho confirmed earlier this month Courtois would be returning to Chelsea after he finished on international duty with Belgium at the World Cup, per BBC Sport:
"When the World Cup is over, Courtois will come straight back to Stamford Bridge - end of story."
However, the Portuguese manager did not give any indication as to how he was going to juggle two world-class keepers and keep them satisfied with a decent amount of playing time.
If Wilmots is to be believed, Cech will be moved on to make way for the younger man with Fox Sports' Daniel Garb suggesting Mark Schwarzer will stay on as back-up:
Courtois to return to Chelsea, says Jose. Very likely Cech will leave with Schwarzer to sign a one year deal as back-up.— Daniel Garb (@DanielGarb) June 15, 2014
Certainly Courtois has shown he is a high-quality keeper and in the long-term he looks likely to become an essential part of the Chelsea team.
But there will be Blues fans sad to see Cech go as he has been a stalwart at the club for a decade and has made over 300 appearances. His form is arguably still to decline.
Making Courtois No. 1 makes a lot of sense for the future, but with Cech still only 32 he could be a very good buy for a top club as he still has plenty of time left in his career.