Blues fury as UEFA rule Courtois can face parent club for free
Chelsea's Champions League semi-final with Atletico Madrid descended into acrimony when Uefa ruled that the English club cannot demand payment if Thibaut Courtois, the best young goalkeeper in the world, plays against them.
Courtois is on loan at Atletico from Chelsea and, as part of that deal, there is understood to be a clause that says an additional fee of £2.48m must be paid if the clubs meet.
That would have amounted to almost £5m over the two legs but, upon learning of the agreement, Uefa issued a statement yesterday to say that such a contract would be "null, void and unenforceable".
Chelsea regarded the contract as private and are unhappy at how Atletico have effectively brought the clause to the attention of Uefa via the media.
Atletico director Clemente Vilaverde said yesterday that Uefa's regulations would supersede the agreement between the two clubs and Chelsea do expect him to play.
Chelsea have always accepted that Courtois was eligible for the match but were last night refusing to say whether they would still demand additional payment should he appear.
They are also adamant that they acted within Uefa's rules throughout. Uefa says it "strictly forbids any club to exert, or attempt to exert, any influence whatsoever over the players that another club may (or may not) field in a match".
A spokesman added: "It follows that any provision in a private contract between clubs which might function in such a way as to influence who a club fields in a match is null, void and unenforceable so far as Uefa is concerned.
"Furthermore, any attempt to enforce such a provision would be a clear violation of both the Uefa Champions League and the Uefa Disciplinary Regulations and would therefore be sanctioned accordingly."
Ron Gourlay, the Chelsea chief executive, said that the club would "evaluate" Uefa's ruling over the weekend. Courtois is in negotiations over a new long-term contract at Chelsea, with Atletico keen for him to stay another season in La Liga.
Chelsea will also bid for Atletico striker Diego Costa at the end of the season and may offer to write off any outstanding appearance fees on Courtois to bring the price down.
Courtois is highly regarded at Chelsea, with goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon adamant that the 21-year-old will become the best in the world.
Lollichon has even admitted that he has talked with Petr Cech, Chelsea's 31-year-old first-choice goalkeeper, about the moment at some stage in the future when Courtois will take his place.
"I follow, I supervise Thibaut every week," said Lollichon last summer. "For me, he is the next maybe N0 1 in the world. He is exceptional. I never see this quality except in Petr."
Asked when Courtois would play for Chelsea, Lollichon said: "The answer is very difficult. Chelsea need the best. We are honest enough together to say when the moment arrives, 'Petr, maybe now...?' We've spoken about it. In fact we are speaking about it."
He said Courtois "is very intelligent, technically very, very, very good, tactically on this aspect he has to improve. The most important thing is to see Courtois happy. If we have a problem, a big injury – fingers crossed we don't – I think Courtois can start now".
Having played Galatasaray and Paris Saint-Germain in the previous knockout rounds, it was another good draw yesterday for Chelsea, with favourites Bayern Munich and Real Madrid paired against each other in the other semi-final.
Chelsea were beaten 4-1 in the European Super Cup last season by Atletico, who lead both Barcelona and Real Madrid in La Liga.
"If someone said to me at the start of the season that with five weeks to go, we are still in the Champions League semi-final and in the shake-up for the Premier League, I would have taken that," said Gourlay.
The first leg will be in Madrid on April 22, with the return at Stamford Bridge on April 30. Jose Mourinho takes his side to Swansea tomorrow afternoon as they look to keep alive their title hopes. (© Daily Telegraph, London)
SWANSEA V CHELSEA, LIVE, TOMORROW, SKY SPORTS 1, 4.07pm
Atletico Madrid v Chelsea
Tuesday, April 22 and Wednesday, April 30
Real Madrid v Bayern Munich
Wednesday, April 23 and Tuesday, April 29
Final: Saturday, May 24, Lisbon
Benfica v Juventus
Seville v Valencia
Thursday, April 24 and Thursday, May 1
Final: Wednesday, May 14, Turin