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Thibaut Courtois Says 'It's Clear Now Who Is No. 1' at Real Madrid

Tom Sunderland@@TomSunderland_Featured ColumnistJuly 26, 2019

LANDOVER, MARYLAND - JULY 23:  Thibaut Courtois #13 of Real Madrid takes the field prior to the 2019 International Champions Cup match against Arsenal at FedExField on July 23, 2019 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/International Champions Cup via Getty Images/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/International Champions Cup/Getty Images

Thibaut Courtois has said it's "clear now who is No. 1" in the battle to be Real Madrid goalkeeper following a difficult first campaign at the Santiago Bernabeu.

The Belgian has played a promising 90 minutes in pre-season so far, and Courtois told Het Nieuwsblad (h/t Marca) he believes he's done enough to cement his status as Real's first choice ahead of Keylor Navas:

"I think it's clear now who is No. 1 [at Real Madrid], and I feel stronger than ever. I have had a very good pre-season, I have trained well and I feel fine.

"After last season, my fat percentage was 8.8 per cent. I came back this summer with 8.1 per cent, which is good after a month of holidays. I feel good, and I hope I will continue in this way."

Courtois moved to Madrid from Chelsea in August 2018 and was quickly played as first choice, surviving the sackings of Julen Lopetegui and Santiago Solari despite some underwhelming patches in form.

Zinedine Zidane kept Courtois as his No. 1 when he was reappointed manager in March, ending his maiden season at Real with 35 appearances across all competitions.

Navas still managed 21 appearances and rarely disappointed when called upon, while Luca Zidane, the manager's son, began to make his initial break into the senior setup, via Eleven Sports:

Eleven Sports @ElevenSports_UK

| 🥅 | Courtois/Navas/Luca @BumperGraham: "Zidane is clearing the way for his son. Football has proven across many managers, Alex Ferguson at Man United, Harry Redknapp introducing Frank Lampard at West Ham, Jordi Cruyff in Barcelona. It is a difficult thorny subject." https://t.co/iVC6oLb3iT

Zidane Jr. has joined Racing Santander on loan for the upcoming season, and Ukrainian Andriy Lunin—who joined the club from Zorya Luhansk in 2018—could be installed as the new third-choice stopper.

Navas has less than one year remaining on his Real contract and will leave the club for free next summer unless he agrees to an extension.

Sportswriter Andrew Gaffney appeared convinced the Costa Rica international had played his farewell game for Real when they lost 2-0 to Real Betis on the last day of La Liga in May:

Andrew Gaffney @GaffneyVLC

Keylor Navas at least gets to say goodbye the right way. I feel he’s never really gotten the respect he deserves - not easy behind Madrid’s defence - but he took over from Casillas, was outstanding after the De Gea fiasco and has been much, much better than Courtois this season.

Real have conceded five times in two pre-season matchups thus far, though Navas was between the posts for four of those.

Courtois started the 3-1 defeat to Bayern on Saturday and leaked one goal before coming off at half-time. Navas started Tuesday's 2-2 draw against Arsenal and conceded twice in the first 24 minutes, while Courtois kept a clean sheet in the second period as Real went on to win via penalty shootout 3-2.

Guillermo Raimundo of AS recently speculated about the significance of Navas retaining the No. 1 jersey for what could be his final season at the Bernabeu, with Courtois having taken the No. 13.

Los Blancos face Atletico Madrid in the 2019 International Champions Cup on Friday, when Zidane's choice for who should start the Madrid derby could indicate who is his current top pick.

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