Thibaut Courtois’ Chelsea departure has been on the cards all summer; but it appears that the Belgian has kicked his attempts to force a move away from Stamford Bridge into overdrive in recent days.
Courtois has acted exactly the same way he did when forcing his move to west London; reinforcing football’s transfer food chain emphatically.
Maurizio Sarri needs a suitable replacement and time is not on his side. Here’s a rundown of those in the race to become Chelsea’s new number one…
Jan Oblak – Atletico Madrid
The towering stopper is the outstanding candidate to replace Courtois, just as he did at Atletico Madrid back in 2014.
At a reported £89m (100m euros), he will not come cheap – Chelsea must be cursing Liverpool for not only taking Alisson off the market but inflating the market for top goalkeepers – but he would be worth it.
He is commanding and composed, with strong distribution and shot-stopping skills to boot. He is in that very top bracket of goalkeepers, but the main issue will be convincing him to drop into the Europa League to join.
Jack Butland – Stoke City
2018 has so far been a deeply frustrating year for Butland. After suffering relegation with Stoke City, he was then overlooked as England’s first-choice goalkeeper for the World Cup.
He then watched on as Jordan Pickford – another reported previous Chelsea target – became a national icon.
There has also not been as much top flight interest in the stopper’s services as he might have hoped, but the Star report that Chelsea will turn to him if they cannot land Oblak.
That would be a major step up for Butland. He has talent, but lacks the experience at the very top level Chelsea would ideally like.
It would be an intriguing move and a gamble, but the Stoke man will back himself to succeed if he does make the switch.
Kasper Schmeichel – Leicester City
Schmeichel was linked with a move to the Bridge earlier in the window, following on from his World Cup penalty-saving heroics for Denmark against Croatia.
He would be a slightly left-field pick, but has the leadership skills Chelsea sorely lacked last season as they gutlessly slumped out of the top four and has battled his way up the footballing ladder – so would be keen to make the absolute most of his chance.
The pressure is unlikely to faze him – he has Champions League and international experience – and the arrival of Danny Ward at the King Power Stadium has raised the possibility he may well depart this summer.
Petr Cech – Arsenal
Cech is a Chelsea legend and was linked with a return to Stamford Bridge at the same time the Schmeichel rumours surfaced, after Arsenal signed Bernt Leno to solve their goalkeeping issues.
A move back across London should be avoided; Cech’s best days are behind him, as the arrival of Leno proves.
Chelsea let Cech leave to invest time into the younger Courtois who has years left at the top. Bringing him back to replace the Belgian, after he has declined further, would be an incredible step back.
Also, they say never go back. It can work, but it generally doesn’t when the player in question is a fading force. Didier Drogba just about got away with it, one suspects Cech would not.