Chelsea star Thibaut Courtois has thrown more fuel on the fire regarding transfer rumours linking him with a summer move, refusing to commit his long-term future to the Blues.
When asked whether a transfer was possible, he said: “I do not say yes, I do not say no. I do not know: I still have three years on my contract. We must see what Chelsea want. It is true that it [this season] has changed me.”
In the same interview (h/t Kristof Terreur of HLN), he also made some odd comments about the difference in training between Chelsea and the Belgian national team:
The 23-year-old goalkeeper previously plied his trade in the Spanish capital, spending several seasons on loan with Atletico Madrid. That partly explains the links with Real, who witnessed firsthand what the Belgium international is capable of.
Courtois established himself as one of the world's best young stoppers in Madrid and enjoyed a productive first season with Chelsea in the 2014-15 campaign. His performances were so solid the club felt comfortable parting with longtime starter and club legend Petr Cech.
The 2015-16 campaign has been less productive for Courtois and the Blues, who are dangerously close to losing out on European football for next season.
Sports writer Jack Rathborn questioned the timing of Courtois' comments:
Perhaps Courtois should talk less & focus on getting back to being one of the best goalkeepers in the world, just a thought— Jack Rathborn (@JackRathborn) March 26, 2016
But while the 2015-16 campaign hasn't been Courtois' finest, it's easy to see why top clubs would still be interested in his services this summer. The former Genk star is a massive, imposing figure in goal who gets low incredibly fast and displays remarkable ability on his line.
He's still learning how to command his box and could still improve in the air, but those are aspects of the game he'll get better at in time. He's still just 23 years old―Courtois' long-term potential is perhaps higher than that of any goalkeeper in the world.
The Daily Mail's Sami Mokbel claimed Real are eyeing the Belgian starlet as their preferred option if a summer move for Manchester United's David De Gea fails, despite the strong form of current starter Keylor Navas.
Navas has perhaps been Los Blancos' most consistent player all year long, and the persistent links with other goalkeepers don't make a lot of sense to sports writer Jonas Giaever:
I'll throw it out there; having watched Keylor Navas this season I simply do not understand why Madrid would buy David de Gea.— Jonas Giæver (@CheGiaevara) March 20, 2016
Per WhoScored.com, the 29-year-old is easily the top-ranked goalkeeper in La Liga this season, beating out a host of established veteran shot-stoppers, including Claudio Bravo of Barcelona.
Most clubs wouldn't even consider adding another stopper if they had a goalkeeper as strong as Navas, but Los Blancos are in a class of their own. De Gea is a national hero and previously played for Atletico as well―landing him would accomplish more than just adding a young star player.
Will Real buy another goalkeeper this summer?
Rivals Barcelona have used an approach with two goalkeepers, mainly using Bravo in La Liga and Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the UEFA Champions League, but it's doubtful someone like De Gea or Courtois, a true star at the position, would be open to such a platoon approach.
Per the Sun's Antony Kastrinakis, De Gea's contract with United, which he signed after his move to Real fell through last summer, contains a £30 million release clause, and that clause could ultimately make the difference in this saga.
If Real decide to trade Navas in for a younger, more high-profile stopper, preferred target De Gea would be a lot cheaper than Courtois. Chelsea won't part with him on the cheap, just one year after pushing Cech out of the club for the Belgian, and De Gea's reported clause makes him a far easier target to capture.