Chelsea fans will be expecting manager Jose Mourinho to expend major efforts this summer on solving the striker- or should that be lack of a striker – crisis at the club. It’s certainly true that not having a front man capable of delivering goals on a regular basis seriously hampered the club’s progress last term, but the other end of the pitch will also be occupying some of the Portuguese’s thoughts as he seeks the best path to a solution of the Cech/Courtois conundrum for next season.
Unlike with the strikers the issue between the sticks is that Chelsea have two exceptional talents to choose from. Petr Cech, still relatively young in goalkeeping terms at 31, has been a stalwart of the club since before Mourinho’s ‘first coming’ at Stamford Bridge. Arguably still the best ‘keeper in the Premier League, if Courtois was not an option, Cech would be a rock solid certainty for the number one position at the club next season. Courtois however, is on the scene, and there’s the rub.
Chelsea signed the Belgian for a paltry £5million back in 2011, but immediately loaned him out to Atletico Madrid, where he has matured, and produced the outstanding displays that have seen him win the ‘Zamora’ trophy the last two seasons, for being the outstanding goalkeeper in La Liga. Further complications arise of course when you consider that although Cech is indeed not old in goalkeeping terms, Courtois, is a whole decade his junior. Then, there is the matter of the dislocated shoulder injury sustained by Cech, ironically in the Champions League semi-final against Atletico Madrid – where Courtois remains on loan. Cech has had surgery on the injury, and whilst there are no reports of any complications, for a goalkeeper, such an injury must surely be a worry, bringing with it the possibilities of recurrences.
It is perhaps this scenario that may decide the issue in the younger man’s favour. If Mourinho chose to stick with Cech, and Courtois’s loan period was extended at Ateleti, or perhaps he was sold, Chelsea would be a hostage to fortune should the Czech international’s injury recur meaning a lengthy absence from the team and a promotion of an hitherto unsigned back-up ‘keeper.
With such a scenario in mind, taking the Belgian back to the Bridge as the number one ‘keeper and using Cech perhaps in League Cup and FA Cup games may be the safer option. Having two outstanding goalkeepers can be a difficult issue, but one with great benefits if handled correctly. Of course, it may be that Cech would ultimately decide to leave at the end of the season, in order to gain first team football, but by that time Courtois would have had a season to prove himself a worthy successor.
Courtois is acutely aware of the problem, talking to the BBC about a potential rivalry at the club betwee Cech and himself, he said: “The two of us want to play in everything. Nobody will be happy to play in only the League Cup or FA Cup. Things are unclear at the moment. I have the biggest respect for Petr Cech. He is one of the best goalkeepers in the world, so I think putting him and me in the same team is not the healthiest thing in the world. We will see in the next week if we can sit together with Chelsea to find something for next year, find out what they want, what my desire is. We will see.”
Chelsea fans will also be waiting to see the solution that Mourinho goes for. Having had Cech as a security blanket for a decade now, they’ll be hoping that the manager gets it right.
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