Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois is undervalued but key to club’s success

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“You can say we have a goalkeeper,” Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti said with a smile. You can, yes.

That was after a game against Sevilla, but it could have been Rotterdam or Liverpool or Rome or somewhere else, really. Every week, in every match, good, bad or careless, there is at least one amazing save from Thibaut Courtois. Sometimes they don’t really need it; Sometimes they really are, really Act. But either way, it’s always there.

Real Madrid won seven matches in a row. Without him, they wouldn’t have. They’ve all seen Courtois save, apparently a legal requirement now, and no match is complete without one.

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Just ask… well, Courtois himself. The goalkeeper is not ashamed to say it, nor is he slow to mention his miracles in post-match interviews, slipping them somewhere. But then again, it’s the rare footballer – the kind we should be grateful for – who actually has something to say and prefers to say it, rather than just mumbling some cliches to get out of there. A man is willing to talk about the game after the game – in fact, in almost every game after the game, the press officer dreams when others refuse – and does so clearly and directly on every topic, to analyze the game correctly.

Why doesn’t that include his responses? After all, the analysis of almost every Real Madrid match would not be complete without it. Besides, there’s something realistic in the way he does it, fortunately breaking which stops were easiest, which were harder, and how his height plays a role. On Wednesday night after a 1-0 win over Athletic Club, for example, Courtois marked the difference between his saves, noting Raul Garcia and Ohan Sansett’s stops: “I know Raul Garcia well. Scope, and it’s not easy. It’s training, quality, reactions and talent. And a bit of luck. The second is more about making yourself big and trying to block out the space under your feet.”

Not least because it’s true, because he’s right, and why not? Everyone will be on it fast enough if he makes a mistake. Will be? she was. When there were no mistakes he was making, it wasn’t just miracles, at least not yet: when it was a rough start in Madrid, they fought it not because he was sinking, but just because he wasn’t. t save them.

No, then, anyway. It is now. These statistics also show it: no one in Spain won more than he did. In Europe there are only two men, which is not normal at a big club, usually less likely to have enough shots to achieve such stats. These are the prime numbers. Then there are proportions. In the Champions League, Courtois saved 86.36% of shots on goal. In the League, he saved more than three-quarters of them. Nobody does it better. And if you don’t want to take his word for it, how about taking Unai Simon?

Last Sunday night, Courtois saved two superb goals against Sevilla, which was the latest in a long list. Four days later, Athletic denied it. Real Madrid could have lost two matches already. In two games they somehow won, calmly climbing seven points to the top of the table.

At the end of it, Athletic coach Marcelino said: “I’ve played football for a very long time and have never seen anything like this before.” His team could have scored six goals. Some were terrible finishing, some were excellent defense – Lucas Vasquez in particular provided a great block – and some were Courtois’s daily mandatory charm. “He was amazing. He kept the match alive,” said Athletic sporting director Rafa Alcorta. As for the Athletic goalkeeper himself, Simon insisted: “There is not enough appreciation for Courtois.”

And that’s not to say there isn’t anything – there, and this morning’s front page of AS yells “Golden Gloves,” for example – but maybe there is something about goalkeepers that means they’ve been ignored, or something about them, that it might be advisable to admit, Which makes them more amenable to sticking together.

“Courtois’ work is underappreciated and he’s one of the pillars of the team,” Simon said. “There are a lot of stars in Madrid, like Benzema, Modric and Kroos, and they would not have won without him.”

Courtois admitted that when he came to Madrid, there was a certain “distance” between him and then coach Zinedine Zidane. See how clearly he speaks? So he said that”[captain] Sergio Ramos was a friend of Keylor Navas, so it was hard for him at first.” Here he goes again. His saves were low, that’s right, there was probably some anxiety, a hint of a lack of confidence. The media speculated that he had an anxiety attack – Theme Too dangerous, tossed so frivolously to let go – and so, he spoke.

The pressure was intense, as always. Courtois later noted that it’s best to avoid social media, the trap that young players fall into, because it “only makes you feel bad” and that “your head goes crazy if you believe everything in the press”. This is not to say that he does not carry out what is being said around him: he clearly is not, and there are often glimpses of it, and he has admitted that his press officer scrolls through them and passes him some of what is written so that he can see “which way the wind is blowing”. (Hello Thibaut!) But if it’s hard to manage — if it’s hard to manage, and it’s hard for those on the outside to appreciate how hard it is — he can.

When asked on Wednesday if Courtois is the best goalkeeper he has ever worked with, Ancelotti gave Ancelotti a stark answer. “The list is long. Iker Casillas, Diego Lopez, Gianluigi Buffon, Petr Cech, Manuel Neuer … but for us here he is the best at the moment,” he said.

Courtois (who was voted fourth goalkeeper at the 2021 ESPN FC 100) was not included in The Best’s shortlist and missed the Ballon d’Or conversation. Recent awards largely revolve around what they won (or didn’t get) last season – the vision – even if Courtois attributes it to the fact that he said the Nations League fourth-place match was pointless, only there because it’s “extra money for UEFA.” ” It doesn’t matter, he said, “I know what I’m doing for the club.”

Work as standard cutbacks, then. And it’s not just counters. Watch the match right behind his own net and there’s more to it than a little routine: the buttons up, the spare ball handed to him by a member of the staff standing there with a bag full of it. (It’s something to keep, bounce, and feel.) A sense of control, sobriety, calm, no fuss. Courtois is not a particularly boisterous goalkeeper, but there is still authority, words used when needed. The dominance of his region also stands out. The ball in the air is his ball every time.

Then there is the play. It’s amazing how often his teammates turn to him, and the ball gets his way. Sometimes he gets pressured his way. Tough, bouncing, embarrassing…and always dealt with.

How much you play depends on the coach. Some teams are content with caution, and Courtois was among those too. Courtois remembers that when he was at Chelsea under then-manager Guus Hiddink, he was in the middle of passing exercises – and he was good at it. He returned this part of his game, and even encouraged him at the Bernabeu. It’s not unusual, no, but confidence in him is palpable. Which he would think he never let them down, and how regularly he saves them.

For another club this might be something to worry about – no team really wants to be a great goalkeeper – but Ancelotti was not. Not like that, anyway. “We have it and we are enjoying it,” Ancelotti said. Well, some of them do. “He does in matches what he does in training,” the coach added. “I tell him, ‘You have to give our attackers more confidence because you always stop every shot he takes. “


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