Although in goalkeeping terms Petr Cech is still relatively young and arguably at the peak of his powers age-wise having not long ago celebrated his 31st birthday, the rapid development of Thibaut Courtois means there is a real possibility that this should be his last season as Chelsea’s number one between the sticks.
Courtois only has two years left to run on his Chelsea contract and is reportedly reluctant to pen an extension without reassurances that he has a future at the club.
The Belgian is currently partaking in a third season-long loan stint at Atletico Madrid and has impressively already played over 100 competitive games for the club.
Last season he kept 20 clean sheets, which was more than any other La Liga goalkeeper and was convincingly voted into the Spanish top-flight’s team of the season.
With Victor Valdez set to leave Barcelona at the end of this campaign, it is no surprise that the 21-year-old has been linked, while he has also moved ahead of Simon Mignolet in the race to be Belgium’s number one.
Given that Courtois is still only 21, he is not a player Chelsea can afford to lose and surely has to be considered the best young goalkeeper in world football, with his reflexes and composure for one so young admirable.
Meanwhile, he is one of only three visiting goalkeepers to have shut out Barcelona at the Nou Camp in the last 18 months.
Chelsea have not found it easy to ditch or even phase out some of their older generation, with Didier Drogba the only leaver from the spine of the team from Jose Mourinho’s first spell. John Terry, Frank Lampard, Cech and Ashley Cole are still first-team regulars now.
There is a time these players will have to be replaced and Chelsea will have to ask themselves if a better option between the sticks will emerge than Courtois.
Goalkeepers are notoriously tough to replace, with Manchester United going through a few misfits between Peter Schmeichel and Edwin Van der Sar and Arsenal have never adequately replaced David Seaman.
Man City made a similarly bold decision when picking Joe Hart over Shay Given ahead of the 2010/11 season and Chelsea will find themselves in a similarly pressure position next summer, where the wrong move could be hazardous in a couple of years time.
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