Thibaut Courtois goes AWOL in bid to force Real Madrid move
Thibaut Courtois has attempted to force his Chelsea exit by going absent without leave on the eve of the season.
That puts Chelsea in a race to land a new goalkeeper before Thursday's transfer deadline, with Stoke City's Jack Butland and Sevilla's Sergio Rico top of their shortlist.
Having failed to show up at Wembley to watch the Community Shield defeat against Manchester City, Courtois stayed away from training yesterday when head coach Maurizio Sarri had hoped to talk to him.
The situation has echoes of Diego Costa going on strike to force a move to Atletico Madrid last season as Courtois waits to find out whether he will be allowed to join Real Madrid.
Real have bid €40m (£35m) and the goalkeeper's agent Christophe Henrotay last week called on the club to let him go.
Face to face
Sarri wanted to speak to Courtois face to face, but the 26-year-old has remained in Belgium, where he was honoured by his former club Genk last weekend.
Courtois was due to join England centre-back Gary Cahill in the Wembley stands on Sunday, but failed to turn up and offered no explanation for his absence.
He was then meant to join Cahill, Eden Hazard, N'Golo Kante, Michy Batshuayi and Olivier Giroud in a training session at Cobham yesterday, but, again, was absent.
Hazard posted pictures on social media of himself back in London and looking happy. He has assured Chelsea he will continue to give his best for the club despite missing out on a move to Real.
Sarri appeared to open the door for Courtois to leave by insisting he wanted only players who were 100pc motivated to play for Chelsea and it now appears the club will have to sell him.
Chelsea can wait until after Thursday's Premier League deadline to seal the sale of the player who has entered the final year of his contract, because Real have until the end of August to sign players, but they must sign a replacement before the Premier League transfer window shuts.
A bid of around €28m (£25m) may be enough to land Butland from Stoke.
Butland wants to move to a Premier League club to enhance his bid to challenge Jordan Pickford as England's No 1 and a move to Chelsea would do just that.
He has been at Stoke since 2013 and is well known to Chelsea scouts, who watched many of his performances last season while checking on Kurt Zouma's progress during his spell on loan there.
Rico is also on the list of goalkeepers who former coach Christophe Lollichon has recommended to Chelsea and Sevilla are keen on Batshuayi. Everton will not entertain a late bid for Pickford, regardless of how much they are offered.
While Courtois tries to force Chelsea into a corner over his future, the club are willing to pay Hazard more than £300,000-a-week (€336,000) to extend his contract, which has two years to run. However, the 27-year-old is unlikely to rush into signing it despite accepting he will remain at Stamford Bridge this season.
Chelsea have offered a new £290,000-a-week (€325,000) deal to Kante, who has returned to pre-season training and remains happy at the club.
Willian is another staying this season, despite confirming that Barcelona made a bid to sign him.
"I am a Chelsea player," said the Brazilian. "I have always made it clear that I want to stay here.
"The only club I know of that made a genuine offer for me was Barcelona. But my head is here and I have the intention of staying as long as the club don't want to sell me."
Willian returned late from his summer break, but he has no problems with Sarri and is looking forward to working with the former Napoli coach.
"This is a new era, with a new manager and I've had a good conversation with him," said Willian.
"Sarri is a coach who likes to play football; he has a style of playing that is similar to Manchester City.
"We've only just started working with him, but in the first few days we've seen he is a coach who likes to play the ball out from the back and likes his teams to play football. He will be very important for us."
Chelsea play their final friendly of pre-season against Lyon at Stamford Bridge tonight, with French sources claiming they are attempting to sign £65m-rated (€73m) Nabil Fekir, who almost joined Liverpool last month. (©Daily Telegraph, London)