Thibaut Courtois‘ career at Real Madrid has been arguably the biggest redemption story in the club’s recent history. He went from a controversial signing and an easy scapegoat to becoming the team’s best player and a beloved fan favorite. But how did this occur and where did it all change? For that, we will have to start at the very beginning.
As previously mentioned, Courtois’ signing was seen as controversial as Keylor Navas was already the starter and fundamental in helping Real Madrid win consecutive Champions League titles. That was also the season Cristiano Ronaldo left and the signing of another keeper was viewed as unnecessary, despite arriving at a bargain price. Along with this, his prior history with Atletico Madrid did not do him any favors, especially after the infamous ‘kangaroo’ chant.
The 2018/2019 season was not Thibaut Courtois’ best season. In fairness, he was not as bad as the critics say, but he did not play at the level we had seen at previous clubs. The changes in managers and the constant debate in goal (along with the pressure from the Real Madrid fans) did not do him well as Real Madrid would not win any titles that season.
At the beginning of the following season, despite the departure of Keylor Navas to PSG and Courtois becoming the undisputed starter, his low form continued and serious questions began to be raised about whether he could handle the pressure of playing for a club like Real Madrid.
It also did not help that they were paired in the group as Navas’ PSG side, who hammered Real Madrid in the opening of match of the group stage. It then reached boiling point after drawing against Club Brugge where Courtois was heavily criticized for conceding some soft goals and was even substituted at halftime due to a stomach bug.
The fans were not impressed and Courtois’ career at Real Madrid looked to have no way back. However, that all drastically changed when Real Madrid took on Galatasary in a vital Champions League encounter.
The game that changed Thibaut Courtois’ Real Madrid career
To set the stage, Real Madrid had not won any of their Champions League encounters and were in need of a much-needed victory in their next match against Galatasary in Istanbul, which is known for its difficult environment. Not only was Courtois’ Real Madrid career on the line, but Zidane was also under intense pressure and reports circulated that he could be sacked if the team did not come back with anything less than a victory. Despite the concerns, Real Madrid would go on to win. Courtois made several clutch saves and was clearly the team’s best player.
Since then, he has been instrumental in the club’s success, helping the club win a La Liga title (also claiming the Zamara trophy for the keeper with the lowest goals conceded that season) and a couple of Spanish Super Cups where he came up with some vital penalty saves. He has also instantly become a fan favorite not just for his incredible performances, but also because he shows his gratitude towards them by sticking around and applauding the supporters after each game.
He is not just the team’s most important player, Courtois has become without question the best keeper in the current moment; though the governing bodies seem to think otherwise seeing where they rank him in their awards. Although that might have more to do with what Courtois has previously said about UEFA and FIFA.
Regardless, there is still a sensation that he does not get the recognition he fully deserves. He is always coming up with vital saves game after game and is arguably the main reason the team has not conceded more goals, especially at the beginning of the season when the team was struggling defensively. In fact, some of those defensive issues have still been occurring, but Courtois’ performances have covered for those frailties.
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Furthermore, it is now understood why the club decided to sign him when they already had another in-form keeper: Keylor Navas is good, but Thibaut Courtois is simply a top keeper and was being signed at a low price.
If Courtois continues to perform at this rate, he will not just become a club legend, he could seriously go down as the greatest goalkeeper in Real Madrid’s history.