Wednesday 21 February 2018

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois reveals message Real Madrid sent him last year

Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois
Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois

Matt Law

Real Madrid brazenly sent a message of goodwill to goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois at Chelsea’s training base in Cobham.

Courtois revealed how Real last season wished him a speedy recovery from his knee injury in a move that could have been perceived as part of a gradual courtship of the player.

Telegraph Sportunderstands that rather than contacting Courtois privately, Real unashamedly sent the fax to Chelsea’s club machine at Cobham.

The communication was signed by former Real player, who is now the club’s director of international relations, Emilio Butragueno, and was addressed to ‘Thibaut Courtois at Cobham’.

It is not unusual for Real to send out such messages of goodwill, although they tend to be reserved for players the Spanish club are taking a special interest in.

Alex Ferguson employed a similar tactic at Manchester United, as revealed by the good luck letter he sent to Belgian midfielder Steven Defour when he was at Standard Liege.

Real have been tracking Courtois since he was on loan at Atletico Madrid and made an enquiry about the goalkeeper in the summer of 2015, which they followed up with the fax when he was injured last September.

“Real Madrid showed me a very nice gesture when I injured my knee last year - they sent me a fax to wish me a speedy recovery,” said Courtois in an interview with Spanish newspaper Marca.

Chelsea are understood to be relaxed about the fax, as it does not constitute a tapping up offence, and the fact the 24-year-old reiterated his desire to return to Spain later in his career.

Courtois has a Spanish girlfriend and asked by Marca whether he misses the country he spent three years in while on loan at Atletico from Chelsea, he replied: “Yes, but not just for the club, but also Madrid and the entire country.

“From the first minute, I fell in love with Spain for the people, the way of life, the food. I still eat late, take a siesta, most of the television I watch is Spanish, I feel half Spanish.

“When I left Spain I knew that I would return one day. I have a contract with Chelsea for three more seasons. In 2018, when I get to the final year of the contract, we'll have to assess if it's better to renew it or go.”

Although Chelsea have not been angered by the comments of Courtois, his interview will not have gone down with the club’s fans. Other than allowing club legend Petr Cech to move to London rivals Arsenal to make space for Courtois, Chelsea this summer sidelined highly-rated coach Christophe Lollichon in a bid to keep the goalkeeper happy.

Despite now working with Italian goalkeeping coach Gianluca Spinelli, Courtois has already made one high-profile error this season, against Swansea City, although he performed well in the defeat to Liverpool.

Courtois insisted he is happy working under new head coach Antonio Conte and admitted a gulf appeared between the players and former manager Jose Mourinho during last season’s struggles.

Asked about Conte, Courtois said: “He is always thinking about football. He is very strong tactically and he knows exactly what he wants from his players. He makes us understand with videos and by simulating game situations in training sessions.”

On Mourinho, the Belgium international added: “He works very well on tactics and he is a winner. He is usually very close to his players, but when the results were not going well last season we could sense that that was a certain distance appearing between us and him.”

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