Football fans are an emotional bunch (I’ll be by later to collect my trophy for the ‘Understatement of the Year’ award). Tribalism runs deep in this sport and it’s the supporters’ passion that makes the game so special to billions across the globe. Fans will go to the edge of the Earth for their clubs, which sometimes means turning on players who once donned a favorite foreign colors. This reality is all too familiar to Chelsea fans over the last few seasons after the way some individuals have departed west London.
Thibaut Courtois is one of the players who has received the most backlash—If not the single most criticized individual amongst supporters — for the way he left the Blues back in 2018. The goalkeeper infamously forced his way out in what turned out to be a nasty break-up in an already contentious summer as Chelsea had just swapped managers just weeks out from the season. Maurizio Sarri, the man tasked with replacing Antonio Conte, saw his No. 1 between the sticks wanting out right away. Courtois forced the club’s hand and got his desired move to Real Madrid. His fate has been sealed ever since, but it may be time to lay off the goalkeeper a bit.
It may be time for Chelsea fans to lay off Thibaut Courtois after all of the hate
The Blues replaced Courtois with Kepa Arrizabalaga — who won a Europa League trophy in his debut campaign — but from then on, Courtois was public enemy No. 1 in the eyes of the fans. He made his highly anticipated return to Stamford Bridge (with fans in the stands) this season and one can only imagine the reception he received. Boos and hiss’ rained down from the Matthew Harding Stand in the first match of the Champions League quarterfinals. Courtois handled the reception with class and he put on a show, ultimately getting the last laugh on the night. Real Madrid avenged its loss in last year UCL semifinals to the Blues with a 3-1 first leg victory.
Yet, Courtois remained humble. He did not speak badly about the supporters or the club in the face of hate, he remained appreciative of everything his time in London meant to his career. That largely sums up his attitude towards Chelsea as a whole since he left four years ago. When removing biased emotions and admiration for the Blues from the equation, it’s easy to see why the Belgian wanted to return to the Spanish capital. His significant other and children were living there and unwilling to relocate, so it was he who had the tough decision to make. His exit may have been messy and a tad bit unprofessional, but it’s not hard to sympathize with Courtois when viewing him as a human being as opposed to just a footballer.
Speaking to Sports Correspondent Carrie Brown following Real Madrid’s UCL triumph, Courtois spoke a bit about his former club:
“Last year, I obviously rooted for Chelsea in the final, they won it. This year I hope they rooted for us, and we won it. I hope they understand the decision [to leave]. We have talked a lot about it, there is no hard feelings towards Chelsea, I love the club, but I love my kids more. ”
Four years removed from the ugly break up, all sides have found success in their own ways. Courtois helped Los Blancos lift the Champions League last weekend with a win over Liverpool, and the Blues were able to win the same competition last season with new goalkeeper Edouard Mendy. Thus, it’s about time for Chelsea fans to learn a thing or two from Courtois, who has undoubtedly matured since leaving the English club. The 30-year-old’s reputation in west London will never be the same as it once was, but that does not mean there can be a mutual respect, admiration and even love for each other now that the dust has finally settled.
What are your feelings towards Courtois after Saturday? Let us know your thoughts in the comments or on Twitter!