For months, fans and the media alike have been unanimous regarding FC Barcelona’s solution to their impending goalkeeping crisis – and that solution’s name is Marc-Andre ter Stegen. The German international goalkeeper has played a crucial role in the resurgence of Borussia Monchengladbach over the past few seasons, helping Die Fohlen transform from one of the Bundesliga’s bottom feeders into a club capable of challenging for a qualification berth for European competition.
While Ter Stegen’s route to the first team of the German national squad is blocked by Manuel Neuer, the young keeper is regarded as one of the hottest talents in European and World Football. With just over a season left to run on his contract in Western Germany, Ter Stegen is tipped to be leaving the Bundesliga this summer, with FC Barcelona emerging as the front-runners to secure his signature.
Given that starting goalkeeper and vice-captain Victor Valdes is bringing his near 20 year affiliation with the club to an end upon the expiry of his contract this June, Barcelona are on the lookout for a new custodian to place between the posts at the Camp Nou – and Ter Stegen has been reportedly been identified as the man for the job by the Barca hierarchy. According to some reports, a deal may have already been agreed.
The brief threat of a FIFA-imposed transfer ban looked to jeopardise that move, but with FIFA out of the picture, at least temporarily, Barcelona have been liberated and the move should go ahead. However, as one problem subsides, another crops up – for Ter Stegen at least.
That problem also has a name: Thibaut Courtois.
We all know who Thibaut Courtois is; he’s made sure of that personally over the past two seasons. Unless you’ve taken a Guardiola-esque sabbatical from the football world over the past 24 months, the chances are that you will have seen Courtois make a number of super-human saves for Atletico Madrid. You might remember him from a famous Lionel Messi free-kick; although that moment aside, Courtois has not only established himself as a great keeper, but arguably as one of the very best in the world. In fact, when you take this season into consideration, Courtois has a convincing claim to the title of world’s best.
And according to the latest reports from Diario Sport, Courtois is still interested in signing for FC Barcelona this summer. During his time in Madrid, Courtois has grown fond of La Liga, and the prospect of returning to Chelsea and battling with Petr Cech seemingly doesn’t appeal to the Belgian, particularly given Jose Mourinho’s allegiance to the Czech goalkeeper. In the aftermath of Chelsea’s heavy UEFA Champions League semi-final defeat to Atletico at Stamford Bridge on Wednesday, Mourinho repeatedly refused to comment on Courtois.
The wording was distant – even when pressed for a comment on what the reporter perceived to be "Chelsea’s goalkeeper", Mourinho continued to claim that Courtois "is not a Chelsea goalkeeper". Contract extension talks are rumoured to be ongoing, but even the most ardent Chelsea fan will admit that there has been little progress. As things stand, Courtois will enter the summer with 24 months left on his contract.
In terms of receiving market value, Chelsea would have to sell this summer. Waiting another year gives Courtois all the power. So, with Courtois settled and accustomed to life in Spain, La Liga is his preferred destination – while within La Liga, a move to FC Barcelona is reported to be the player’s first choice.
And so Sport claim that Courtois could yet emerge as an FC Barcelona player this summer, provided that Andoni Zubizarreta makes a move. Marc-Andre ter Stegen would be the cheaper option, but Courtois is proven, both in La Liga and at the very highest level, as his UEFA Champions League heroics indicate.
The only stumbling block? It’s unclear whether Courtois truly wishes to leave Chelsea, or whether he is just using the threat of an exit as leverage in his battle with Petr Cech for a starting place.
But if the rumours have some substance, what would you do? Press on with the rumoured signing of Marc-Andre ter Stegen, or go all in for Courtois?
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