The stellar performances of Thibaut Courtois over the last few years have seen him become of the best, and most sought after goalkeepers in the world of football. It’s no surprise then that Atletico Madrid’s rise to the top in recent seasons has coincided with the long-term loan arrival of the Belgian ‘keeper from Chelsea.
If the rumours are to be believed, Courtois will be spending another year on loan in Madrid next season, but with the controversy surrounding Courtois’ involvement in Atletico’s upcoming clash with Chelsea in the Champions League, the situation might become a bit more complicated, and it is not impossible that the big Belgian may be taking the flight back home to London.
This would leave Atletico in the unenviable position of having to find a suitable replacement for Courtois, a task that will by no means be an easy one. If they were to replace him though, the following five players should be on their shortlist.
The first player is PSG’s u21 ‘keeper Alphonse Aréola. Aréola, who is currently on loan at Lens in Ligue 2, is highly rated as one of the most promising goalkeepers around at the moment and was instrumental in France’s victorious campaign at the u20 World Cup last year. Whether PSG are willing to sell him remains to be seen but it is highly unlikely that a player of Aréola’s ability will be content to warm the bench. The Frenchman, who is a quality shot-stopper and a bit of a penalty saving specialist, would be the perfect replacement for the outgoing Courtois, especially given that he would be a signing that takes the clubs long-term future into consideration.
The second player on the shortlist finds himself on the other range of the age spectrum. With age though comes a wealth of experience. Having represented Liverpool and Napoli at the highest level, and been a part of Spain’s dominance of world football in recent years, Pepe Reina, certainly has experience in abundance. Added to that, Reina has previous experience playing in La Liga having been a product of Barcelona’s famed academy and then starring for Villarreal before his move to England. Despite still being contracted to Liverpool (currently on loan at Napoli) his time at Anfield appears to be all but over and a move back to Spain would surely be on the cards for Reina.
The third ‘keeper is probably the biggest name of the lot and finds himself playing in the English Premier League for Tottenham. He is none other than Hugo Lloris. The stock of Lloris appears to have fallen as a result of Tottenham’s continuous failure to make the Champions League but he should still, in my opinion, be regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Sadly, Lloris’ importance in the Tottenham side is such that it would take a substantial offer for them to let it go, something that would likely prove to be a stumbling block for Atletico. However, if Los Rojiblancos are able to scrape together the funds, the lure of Champions League football would surely be an irresistible prospect for Lloris to turn down.
‘Keeper number four also plies his trade in England and is one of the most underrated players in the game today. The man in question is Stoke stopper Asmir Begovi?. The Bosnian international has been an absolute phenomenon in goal for Stoke over the last two years, receiving praise for his lightning quick reflexes and brilliant shot stopping abilities. As Begovi? continues to improve, it is only a matter of time before he seeks out greener pastures and given Atletico’s form at the moment, it would definitely be greener on the other side.
Finally, we have a player who already finds himself in the books of Atletico Madrid – and it’s not Daniel Aranzubia. No, it’s Sergio Asenjo who currently finds himself on loan at fellow La Liga side Villarreal. Asenjo put his name on the map at Vallodolid and the Spanish u21 side before making the move to Atletico Madrid in 2009. The Spanish ‘keeper struggled to make the no.1 jersey his own, something which was made ten times harder by the arrival of one Thibaut Courtois. Game time became something of a rarity over the next two seasons (one of which was spent on loan at Malaga) and it appeared that Asenjo would fade away like so many talented players before him. The loan to Villarreal, though, was exactly what the doctor ordered for the 24 year old as he has shown once more just why it was that Atletico signed him in the first place. Courtois’ departure might be the chance that Asenjo needs and it’s one that I’m sure he’s more than capable of making the most of.
Ultimately, losing Courtois would be a bitter, bitter blow for Atletico Madrid and I’m sure that the club will be doing everything in their power to hold onto their key man. If they were to lose him though, the chances are good that any of the above players would do well to plug the gap left by his departure.
We would love to hear your thoughts on which of the above you would sign if you were Diego Simeone, and if you would rather sign someone else, let us know who.