Chelsea in race against time to sell Thibaut Courtois

Thibaut Courtois has become one of the world's best keepers during his time as Chelsea's No. 1.
Updated 09 June 2018

Chelsea in race against time to sell Thibaut Courtois

  • Blues keeper keen on move away from Stamford Bridge.
  • Belgian star would leave on a free next summer if he stays at Chelsea.

Chelsea face the prospect of losing Thibaut Courtois on a free transfer in a year’s time if they do not sell the Belgium international this summer. Arab News understands that Courtois has rejected the offer of a new contract that would have made him the best paid goalkeeper in the English Premier League, telling friends that he wants to leave Chelsea in the current transfer window if possible.
    Ideally, Courtois would like a move to Madrid where his two young children are based. While Real Madrid have a long standing interest in the 26-year-old, the European champions have made no concrete attempt to sign him this summer and are understood to be closer to bidding for Brazil international Allison
   An alternative route back to Spanish football would be to rejoin Atletico Madrid, the club where Courtois won three major trophies while on a long-term loan from Chelsea between 2011 and 2014. Atletico’s current No. 1, Jan Oblak, has been targeted by several leading clubs aware of the Slovenian’s €100 million ($117 million) release clause and may have to be replaced this summer.
    According to a Chelsea source, the London club has placed a similar valuation on Courtois, who also attracted interest from Paris Saint-Germain before the French club entered discussions with free agent Gianluigi Buffon. Chelsea’s chances of realizing such a sum for an individual prepared to run down his final year of contract if necessary are minimal.
    The highest transfer fee ever achieved for a goalkeeper remains the €52 million Juventus paid Parma for Buffon over a decade and a half ago. While that record is expected to fall this summer, Chelsea’s position is further weakened by the Premier League’s decision to unilaterally close its window for incoming players on August 9 — more than three weeks ahead of the rest of Europe.
    As a result, there are just nine weeks remaining for Chelsea director Marina Granovskaia to secure an acceptable fee for Courtois, currently on World Cup duty with Belgium. Under Granovskaia, the club has focused on maximizing its income from transfer activity, rarely allowing players with significant resale value to leave under freedom of contract.
   Chelsea are not the only leading Premier League club with a goalkeeping issue to resolve. Liverpool have been looking to secure a new goalkeeper since last year, with their weakness in the position further highlighted by the pair of Loris Karius errors that resulted in two Champions League Final goals last month.
   Oblak and Allison are both high on Liverpool’s wishlist. Atletico began readying themselves for an attempt from Liverpool to trigger Oblak’s release clause in the January window and have continued to insist that the 25-year-old will not leave unless his €100 million price tag is met. For his part, Oblak would prefer to move to a club with a recent history of winning silverware.
   AS Roma want a similar sum for Allison, whose personal preference is to join Madrid. With Liverpool already committed to spending well over €100 million on transfer fees for midfielders Fabinho and Naby Keita and working on other signings, Fenway Sports Group are considered unlikely to sanction a club-record fee for either Allison or Oblak.
   Germany international Bernd Leno is also under consideration at Anfield. A more economical option as Bayer Leverkusen have already secured “a high quality successor” in Lukas Hradecky and have publicly stated their readiness to sell, Leno has been priced at €25m. Alternative options include Barcelona reserve Jasper Cillessen, who has a €60 million release clause.


Champions League ready to resume, at long last

Robert Lewandowski, left, and Bayern Munich during their Marseille friendly ahead of the Champions League last 16 2nd leg against Chelsea. (Files/AFP)
Updated 03 August 2020

Champions League ready to resume, at long last

  • UEFA ‘confident’ no more delays despite virus cases among players at Real Madrid and Sevilla

PARIS: After an enforced hiatus of almost five months, the UEFA Champions League and Europa League resume this week in order to clear up the last remaining business in a troubled season.

Both competitions were frozen in March as the coronavirus pandemic took hold across the continent, and while European football’s governing body acted swiftly to move Euro 2020 back a year, for a long time it was unclear how it would manage to complete its two landmark club competitions.
In the end the solution was to set up two mini tournaments bringing all teams together in one place from the quarterfinals onwards, with all ties being decided in one-off matches behind closed doors.
And so the Champions League will move to Lisbon for the “Final Eight” starting on Aug. 12 and ending with the final at Benfica’s Estadio da Luz on Aug. 23.
The Europa League, meanwhile, will be played to a conclusion at a series of venues in western Germany, with the last eight beginning on Aug. 10 and the final in Cologne on Aug. 21.
“I believed it from the first moment,” said the UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin recently when asked if he ever doubted it would be possible to play the tournaments to a conclusion. “You should always be optimistic, and if something like this crisis happens, you must have a plan ready. “At the present time, we will be playing matches without spectators until further notice. We will not take any risks.”
There is, though, no question of further changes being made to the formats despite concerns about an increase in Covid-19 cases in and around Lisbon, and more recent worries in Germany about a rise in cases there.
UEFA also recently insisted it was “confident” there would be no more delays despite cases of coronavirus emerging among players at Real Madrid and Sevilla. It is, in any case, now or never.
Indeed, the preliminary round of next season’s Champions League begins next Saturday, the same day Bayern Munich entertain Chelsea and Napoli visit Barcelona in their outstanding last 16 second legs.
Before that, Manchester City defend a 2-1 first-leg lead at home against Real on Friday as Pep Guardiola’s side target Champions League glory on the back of the club’s success at getting a two-year ban from the competition overturned by the Court of Arbitration for Sport.
The winner of that tie will face Juventus or Lyon in the quarterfinals in Lisbon.
It is the Europa League which is first up, though, with the last 16 being completed on Wednesday and Thursday.
Two ties — Inter Milan against Getafe and Sevilla against Roma — will go ahead as one-off ties in Germany as the first legs were never played.
Six second legs will also be played with the winners heading to Germany for the last eight.
Among the ties to be completed is Manchester United’s against Austrian side LASK, which will be a formality for Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team after they won 5-0 in the first leg in March.
Their form since the Premier League resumed in mid-June has been excellent and they have already sealed a place in the 2020-21 Champions League, but now they want to finish this never-ending season with a trophy.
“Now our focus is on the Europa League because this is a really good trophy and we want to win,” Bruno Fernandes told MUTV.
“I came to Manchester to win trophies. We need to play every game to win. If we go into the Europa League and win every game, we know we’ll win the trophy.”
United, Europa League winners in 2017, could yet find themselves facing Premier League rivals Wolverhampton Wanderers in the semifinals in Cologne on Aug. 16 should both teams get there.
Wolves entertain Greek champions Olympiakos on Thursday having drawn 1-1 in the first leg of their last-16 tie.
Their campaign started more than a year ago now, with a 2-0 win over Northern Irish side Crusaders in the second qualifying round on July 25, 2019.
Extending it by another couple of weeks would do them no harm.