Interview

So we meet again

Thibaut Courtois won four trophies during his time at Chelsea, but returns to the club with mixed emotions ahead of tonight’s quarter-final

WORDS Seb Powell

Have you been thinking about what it will be like to play in front of the Stamford Bridge fans again?

I’m happy to be going back with fans there this time after having played in an empty stadium last year. I spent four years at Chelsea, where I won an FA Cup, a League Cup and two Premier League titles. It’s a club I love, to which I owe a lot. It’s the club that signed me from Genk, sent me on loan to Atlético and gave me the choice to go there and gain experience. It remains a special club for me. I’m happy when they win titles; I know a lot of players there. I was sad when we lost there last year, but I was happy that the club went on to win the Champions League. I hope that it will be a happy return. Of course we’re rivals – they want to win and I want to win – so I’m not asking for any applause; I hope I’m not going to get booed but you never know. I hope it will be OK, as those fans remain special to me.

How do you feel about the way you left the club?

What I struggle with is the way the media turned on me, spending the whole season claiming I wanted to leave. Because it happened at the last minute, as the transfer window was about to shut, it caused a few problems, so I can understand why the fans were angry at me. However, they have a very good ‘keeper now in Édouard Mendy, and I’m very happy at Madrid.

Thibaut Courtois won four trophies during his time in London.

What was it like to finally sign for Real Madrid?

When I come here to the training centre and see the Real Madrid badge, it’s sometimes a case of thinking, “Pinch me, it’s true then. It’s not a dream, is it?” And when you get to play in games like the one against Paris, where the atmosphere in the stadium is so heated, it’s even more fantastic. Obviously the first few weeks and months were incredible. It got even better when I won my first trophy. I’ll keep on trying to chase my dreams, including winning the Champions League. The journey is still on. I don’t think even in my dreams that I could have imagined that I would one day play for Real Madrid.

Keylor Navas was the number one when you arrived. How was it competing with him on a day to day basis?

As goalkeepers, we know that’s the way it is. We’re a small group within a big squad of players. We train together, so it’s important that we get on with one another. Competition for places is very important. I experienced it at Atlético Madrid, at Genk at the start of my career, at Chelsea with Petr Čech, a legendary keeper. Competition for places is never going to go away, especially when you’re at a big club. When you arrive as a new player and you’re competing with a ‘keeper who’s already won plenty of trophies, it’s always going to be difficult because he wants to play too,. It’s always gone well for me; I’ve never had a problem with another player. Each goalkeeper wants to play and gives it their all on the training pitch; if you’re on the bench you have to train harder – that’s how it works.

And before Navas there was a certain Iker Casillas. Growing up, what did he mean to you?

Growing up, you start watching ‘keepers and having idols. It was incredible for me to watch him play,. I remember the first game I played against him: it was special asking for his shirt because I was only 19. Life can be odd sometimes because 12 or 13 years ago I was playing for Genk’s second team, and I could never imagine that someone like Casillas would be a friend, or that it’d just be normal to be alongside the likes of Karim Benzema, Marcelo or Sergio Ramos in the changing room. Even at Chelsea with John Terry, Didier Drogba... They’ve become friends and colleagues afterwards, which is nice.

You’ll turn 30 next month so do you think that these are your best years, or is the best still to come?

I’d say a goalkeeper’s best years are between 28 and 33. I think your best years are when your body is still perfect and you’re a bit experienced. So I think that in the past two or three years I’ve played to a very high standard. It’s nice to be recognised by great players. I don’t like saying that I’m the best, because that’s up to the experts and the analysts. It depends: some people will prefer me, some people will prefer another goalkeeper and some people will say that I’m one of the worst. It’s always open for debate but it’s nice to be part of such a select group.

Have you been thinking about what it will be like to play in front of the Stamford Bridge fans again?

I’m happy to be going back with fans there this time after having played in an empty stadium last year. I spent four years at Chelsea, where I won an FA Cup, a League Cup and two Premier League titles. It’s a club I love, to which I owe a lot. It’s the club that signed me from Genk, sent me on loan to Atlético and gave me the choice to go there and gain experience. It remains a special club for me. I’m happy when they win titles; I know a lot of players there. I was sad when we lost there last year, but I was happy that the club went on to win the Champions League. I hope that it will be a happy return. Of course we’re rivals – they want to win and I want to win – so I’m not asking for any applause; I hope I’m not going to get booed but you never know. I hope it will be OK, as those fans remain special to me.

How do you feel about the way you left the club?

What I struggle with is the way the media turned on me, spending the whole season claiming I wanted to leave. Because it happened at the last minute, as the transfer window was about to shut, it caused a few problems, so I can understand why the fans were angry at me. However, they have a very good ‘keeper now in Édouard Mendy, and I’m very happy at Madrid.

Thibaut Courtois won four trophies during his time in London.

What was it like to finally sign for Real Madrid?

When I come here to the training centre and see the Real Madrid badge, it’s sometimes a case of thinking, “Pinch me, it’s true then. It’s not a dream, is it?” And when you get to play in games like the one against Paris, where the atmosphere in the stadium is so heated, it’s even more fantastic. Obviously the first few weeks and months were incredible. It got even better when I won my first trophy. I’ll keep on trying to chase my dreams, including winning the Champions League. The journey is still on. I don’t think even in my dreams that I could have imagined that I would one day play for Real Madrid.

Keylor Navas was the number one when you arrived. How was it competing with him on a day to day basis?

As goalkeepers, we know that’s the way it is. We’re a small group within a big squad of players. We train together, so it’s important that we get on with one another. Competition for places is very important. I experienced it at Atlético Madrid, at Genk at the start of my career, at Chelsea with Petr Čech, a legendary keeper. Competition for places is never going to go away, especially when you’re at a big club. When you arrive as a new player and you’re competing with a ‘keeper who’s already won plenty of trophies, it’s always going to be difficult because he wants to play too,. It’s always gone well for me; I’ve never had a problem with another player. Each goalkeeper wants to play and gives it their all on the training pitch; if you’re on the bench you have to train harder – that’s how it works.

And before Navas there was a certain Iker Casillas. Growing up, what did he mean to you?

Growing up, you start watching ‘keepers and having idols. It was incredible for me to watch him play,. I remember the first game I played against him: it was special asking for his shirt because I was only 19. Life can be odd sometimes because 12 or 13 years ago I was playing for Genk’s second team, and I could never imagine that someone like Casillas would be a friend, or that it’d just be normal to be alongside the likes of Karim Benzema, Marcelo or Sergio Ramos in the changing room. Even at Chelsea with John Terry, Didier Drogba... They’ve become friends and colleagues afterwards, which is nice.

You’ll turn 30 next month so do you think that these are your best years, or is the best still to come?

I’d say a goalkeeper’s best years are between 28 and 33. I think your best years are when your body is still perfect and you’re a bit experienced. So I think that in the past two or three years I’ve played to a very high standard. It’s nice to be recognised by great players. I don’t like saying that I’m the best, because that’s up to the experts and the analysts. It depends: some people will prefer me, some people will prefer another goalkeeper and some people will say that I’m one of the worst. It’s always open for debate but it’s nice to be part of such a select group.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Have you been thinking about what it will be like to play in front of the Stamford Bridge fans again?

I’m happy to be going back with fans there this time after having played in an empty stadium last year. I spent four years at Chelsea, where I won an FA Cup, a League Cup and two Premier League titles. It’s a club I love, to which I owe a lot. It’s the club that signed me from Genk, sent me on loan to Atlético and gave me the choice to go there and gain experience. It remains a special club for me. I’m happy when they win titles; I know a lot of players there. I was sad when we lost there last year, but I was happy that the club went on to win the Champions League. I hope that it will be a happy return. Of course we’re rivals – they want to win and I want to win – so I’m not asking for any applause; I hope I’m not going to get booed but you never know. I hope it will be OK, as those fans remain special to me.

How do you feel about the way you left the club?

What I struggle with is the way the media turned on me, spending the whole season claiming I wanted to leave. Because it happened at the last minute, as the transfer window was about to shut, it caused a few problems, so I can understand why the fans were angry at me. However, they have a very good ‘keeper now in Édouard Mendy, and I’m very happy at Madrid.

Thibaut Courtois won four trophies during his time in London.

What was it like to finally sign for Real Madrid?

When I come here to the training centre and see the Real Madrid badge, it’s sometimes a case of thinking, “Pinch me, it’s true then. It’s not a dream, is it?” And when you get to play in games like the one against Paris, where the atmosphere in the stadium is so heated, it’s even more fantastic. Obviously the first few weeks and months were incredible. It got even better when I won my first trophy. I’ll keep on trying to chase my dreams, including winning the Champions League. The journey is still on. I don’t think even in my dreams that I could have imagined that I would one day play for Real Madrid.

Keylor Navas was the number one when you arrived. How was it competing with him on a day to day basis?

As goalkeepers, we know that’s the way it is. We’re a small group within a big squad of players. We train together, so it’s important that we get on with one another. Competition for places is very important. I experienced it at Atlético Madrid, at Genk at the start of my career, at Chelsea with Petr Čech, a legendary keeper. Competition for places is never going to go away, especially when you’re at a big club. When you arrive as a new player and you’re competing with a ‘keeper who’s already won plenty of trophies, it’s always going to be difficult because he wants to play too,. It’s always gone well for me; I’ve never had a problem with another player. Each goalkeeper wants to play and gives it their all on the training pitch; if you’re on the bench you have to train harder – that’s how it works.

And before Navas there was a certain Iker Casillas. Growing up, what did he mean to you?

Growing up, you start watching ‘keepers and having idols. It was incredible for me to watch him play,. I remember the first game I played against him: it was special asking for his shirt because I was only 19. Life can be odd sometimes because 12 or 13 years ago I was playing for Genk’s second team, and I could never imagine that someone like Casillas would be a friend, or that it’d just be normal to be alongside the likes of Karim Benzema, Marcelo or Sergio Ramos in the changing room. Even at Chelsea with John Terry, Didier Drogba... They’ve become friends and colleagues afterwards, which is nice.

You’ll turn 30 next month so do you think that these are your best years, or is the best still to come?

I’d say a goalkeeper’s best years are between 28 and 33. I think your best years are when your body is still perfect and you’re a bit experienced. So I think that in the past two or three years I’ve played to a very high standard. It’s nice to be recognised by great players. I don’t like saying that I’m the best, because that’s up to the experts and the analysts. It depends: some people will prefer me, some people will prefer another goalkeeper and some people will say that I’m one of the worst. It’s always open for debate but it’s nice to be part of such a select group.

So we meet again
Interview

So we meet again

Thibaut Courtois won four trophies during his time at Chelsea, but returns to the club with mixed emotions ahead of tonight’s quarter-final

WORDS Seb Powell

Have you been thinking about what it will be like to play in front of the Stamford Bridge fans again?

I’m happy to be going back with fans there this time after having played in an empty stadium last year. I spent four years at Chelsea, where I won an FA Cup, a League Cup and two Premier League titles. It’s a club I love, to which I owe a lot. It’s the club that signed me from Genk, sent me on loan to Atlético and gave me the choice to go there and gain experience. It remains a special club for me. I’m happy when they win titles; I know a lot of players there. I was sad when we lost there last year, but I was happy that the club went on to win the Champions League. I hope that it will be a happy return. Of course we’re rivals – they want to win and I want to win – so I’m not asking for any applause; I hope I’m not going to get booed but you never know. I hope it will be OK, as those fans remain special to me.

How do you feel about the way you left the club?

What I struggle with is the way the media turned on me, spending the whole season claiming I wanted to leave. Because it happened at the last minute, as the transfer window was about to shut, it caused a few problems, so I can understand why the fans were angry at me. However, they have a very good ‘keeper now in Édouard Mendy, and I’m very happy at Madrid.

Thibaut Courtois won four trophies during his time in London.

What was it like to finally sign for Real Madrid?

When I come here to the training centre and see the Real Madrid badge, it’s sometimes a case of thinking, “Pinch me, it’s true then. It’s not a dream, is it?” And when you get to play in games like the one against Paris, where the atmosphere in the stadium is so heated, it’s even more fantastic. Obviously the first few weeks and months were incredible. It got even better when I won my first trophy. I’ll keep on trying to chase my dreams, including winning the Champions League. The journey is still on. I don’t think even in my dreams that I could have imagined that I would one day play for Real Madrid.

Keylor Navas was the number one when you arrived. How was it competing with him on a day to day basis?

As goalkeepers, we know that’s the way it is. We’re a small group within a big squad of players. We train together, so it’s important that we get on with one another. Competition for places is very important. I experienced it at Atlético Madrid, at Genk at the start of my career, at Chelsea with Petr Čech, a legendary keeper. Competition for places is never going to go away, especially when you’re at a big club. When you arrive as a new player and you’re competing with a ‘keeper who’s already won plenty of trophies, it’s always going to be difficult because he wants to play too,. It’s always gone well for me; I’ve never had a problem with another player. Each goalkeeper wants to play and gives it their all on the training pitch; if you’re on the bench you have to train harder – that’s how it works.

And before Navas there was a certain Iker Casillas. Growing up, what did he mean to you?

Growing up, you start watching ‘keepers and having idols. It was incredible for me to watch him play,. I remember the first game I played against him: it was special asking for his shirt because I was only 19. Life can be odd sometimes because 12 or 13 years ago I was playing for Genk’s second team, and I could never imagine that someone like Casillas would be a friend, or that it’d just be normal to be alongside the likes of Karim Benzema, Marcelo or Sergio Ramos in the changing room. Even at Chelsea with John Terry, Didier Drogba... They’ve become friends and colleagues afterwards, which is nice.

You’ll turn 30 next month so do you think that these are your best years, or is the best still to come?

I’d say a goalkeeper’s best years are between 28 and 33. I think your best years are when your body is still perfect and you’re a bit experienced. So I think that in the past two or three years I’ve played to a very high standard. It’s nice to be recognised by great players. I don’t like saying that I’m the best, because that’s up to the experts and the analysts. It depends: some people will prefer me, some people will prefer another goalkeeper and some people will say that I’m one of the worst. It’s always open for debate but it’s nice to be part of such a select group.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

Have you been thinking about what it will be like to play in front of the Stamford Bridge fans again?

I’m happy to be going back with fans there this time after having played in an empty stadium last year. I spent four years at Chelsea, where I won an FA Cup, a League Cup and two Premier League titles. It’s a club I love, to which I owe a lot. It’s the club that signed me from Genk, sent me on loan to Atlético and gave me the choice to go there and gain experience. It remains a special club for me. I’m happy when they win titles; I know a lot of players there. I was sad when we lost there last year, but I was happy that the club went on to win the Champions League. I hope that it will be a happy return. Of course we’re rivals – they want to win and I want to win – so I’m not asking for any applause; I hope I’m not going to get booed but you never know. I hope it will be OK, as those fans remain special to me.

How do you feel about the way you left the club?

What I struggle with is the way the media turned on me, spending the whole season claiming I wanted to leave. Because it happened at the last minute, as the transfer window was about to shut, it caused a few problems, so I can understand why the fans were angry at me. However, they have a very good ‘keeper now in Édouard Mendy, and I’m very happy at Madrid.

Thibaut Courtois won four trophies during his time in London.

What was it like to finally sign for Real Madrid?

When I come here to the training centre and see the Real Madrid badge, it’s sometimes a case of thinking, “Pinch me, it’s true then. It’s not a dream, is it?” And when you get to play in games like the one against Paris, where the atmosphere in the stadium is so heated, it’s even more fantastic. Obviously the first few weeks and months were incredible. It got even better when I won my first trophy. I’ll keep on trying to chase my dreams, including winning the Champions League. The journey is still on. I don’t think even in my dreams that I could have imagined that I would one day play for Real Madrid.

Keylor Navas was the number one when you arrived. How was it competing with him on a day to day basis?

As goalkeepers, we know that’s the way it is. We’re a small group within a big squad of players. We train together, so it’s important that we get on with one another. Competition for places is very important. I experienced it at Atlético Madrid, at Genk at the start of my career, at Chelsea with Petr Čech, a legendary keeper. Competition for places is never going to go away, especially when you’re at a big club. When you arrive as a new player and you’re competing with a ‘keeper who’s already won plenty of trophies, it’s always going to be difficult because he wants to play too,. It’s always gone well for me; I’ve never had a problem with another player. Each goalkeeper wants to play and gives it their all on the training pitch; if you’re on the bench you have to train harder – that’s how it works.

And before Navas there was a certain Iker Casillas. Growing up, what did he mean to you?

Growing up, you start watching ‘keepers and having idols. It was incredible for me to watch him play,. I remember the first game I played against him: it was special asking for his shirt because I was only 19. Life can be odd sometimes because 12 or 13 years ago I was playing for Genk’s second team, and I could never imagine that someone like Casillas would be a friend, or that it’d just be normal to be alongside the likes of Karim Benzema, Marcelo or Sergio Ramos in the changing room. Even at Chelsea with John Terry, Didier Drogba... They’ve become friends and colleagues afterwards, which is nice.

You’ll turn 30 next month so do you think that these are your best years, or is the best still to come?

I’d say a goalkeeper’s best years are between 28 and 33. I think your best years are when your body is still perfect and you’re a bit experienced. So I think that in the past two or three years I’ve played to a very high standard. It’s nice to be recognised by great players. I don’t like saying that I’m the best, because that’s up to the experts and the analysts. It depends: some people will prefer me, some people will prefer another goalkeeper and some people will say that I’m one of the worst. It’s always open for debate but it’s nice to be part of such a select group.

Read the full story
Sign up now to get access to this and every premium feature on Champions Journal. You will also get access to member-only competitions and offers. And you get all of that completely free!

Have you been thinking about what it will be like to play in front of the Stamford Bridge fans again?

I’m happy to be going back with fans there this time after having played in an empty stadium last year. I spent four years at Chelsea, where I won an FA Cup, a League Cup and two Premier League titles. It’s a club I love, to which I owe a lot. It’s the club that signed me from Genk, sent me on loan to Atlético and gave me the choice to go there and gain experience. It remains a special club for me. I’m happy when they win titles; I know a lot of players there. I was sad when we lost there last year, but I was happy that the club went on to win the Champions League. I hope that it will be a happy return. Of course we’re rivals – they want to win and I want to win – so I’m not asking for any applause; I hope I’m not going to get booed but you never know. I hope it will be OK, as those fans remain special to me.

How do you feel about the way you left the club?

What I struggle with is the way the media turned on me, spending the whole season claiming I wanted to leave. Because it happened at the last minute, as the transfer window was about to shut, it caused a few problems, so I can understand why the fans were angry at me. However, they have a very good ‘keeper now in Édouard Mendy, and I’m very happy at Madrid.

Thibaut Courtois won four trophies during his time in London.

What was it like to finally sign for Real Madrid?

When I come here to the training centre and see the Real Madrid badge, it’s sometimes a case of thinking, “Pinch me, it’s true then. It’s not a dream, is it?” And when you get to play in games like the one against Paris, where the atmosphere in the stadium is so heated, it’s even more fantastic. Obviously the first few weeks and months were incredible. It got even better when I won my first trophy. I’ll keep on trying to chase my dreams, including winning the Champions League. The journey is still on. I don’t think even in my dreams that I could have imagined that I would one day play for Real Madrid.

Keylor Navas was the number one when you arrived. How was it competing with him on a day to day basis?

As goalkeepers, we know that’s the way it is. We’re a small group within a big squad of players. We train together, so it’s important that we get on with one another. Competition for places is very important. I experienced it at Atlético Madrid, at Genk at the start of my career, at Chelsea with Petr Čech, a legendary keeper. Competition for places is never going to go away, especially when you’re at a big club. When you arrive as a new player and you’re competing with a ‘keeper who’s already won plenty of trophies, it’s always going to be difficult because he wants to play too,. It’s always gone well for me; I’ve never had a problem with another player. Each goalkeeper wants to play and gives it their all on the training pitch; if you’re on the bench you have to train harder – that’s how it works.

And before Navas there was a certain Iker Casillas. Growing up, what did he mean to you?

Growing up, you start watching ‘keepers and having idols. It was incredible for me to watch him play,. I remember the first game I played against him: it was special asking for his shirt because I was only 19. Life can be odd sometimes because 12 or 13 years ago I was playing for Genk’s second team, and I could never imagine that someone like Casillas would be a friend, or that it’d just be normal to be alongside the likes of Karim Benzema, Marcelo or Sergio Ramos in the changing room. Even at Chelsea with John Terry, Didier Drogba... They’ve become friends and colleagues afterwards, which is nice.

You’ll turn 30 next month so do you think that these are your best years, or is the best still to come?

I’d say a goalkeeper’s best years are between 28 and 33. I think your best years are when your body is still perfect and you’re a bit experienced. So I think that in the past two or three years I’ve played to a very high standard. It’s nice to be recognised by great players. I don’t like saying that I’m the best, because that’s up to the experts and the analysts. It depends: some people will prefer me, some people will prefer another goalkeeper and some people will say that I’m one of the worst. It’s always open for debate but it’s nice to be part of such a select group.

Penalty Pedigree

Etiam erat velit scelerisque in dictum non. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at. Scelerisque felis imperdiet proin fermentum leo. Nibh tortor id aliquet lectus proin nibh nisl. Nulla at volutpat diam ut venenatis. At urna condimentum mattis pellentesque id nibh tortor id aliquet. Leo a diam sollicitudin tempor id eu nisl nunc mi. Dui vivamus arcu felis bibendum ut. Pharetra convallis posuere morbi leo urna molestie. Adipiscing at in tellus integer feugiat scelerisque. In arcu cursus euismod quis. Dictum non consectetur a erat nam at lectus urna duis. Facilisi nullam vehicula ipsum a arcu cursus. At tempor commodo ullamcorper a lacus vestibulum sed arcu non. Ipsum dolor sit amet consectetur adipiscing elit pellentesque habitant. Vitae sapien pellentesque habitant morbi tristique senectus. Eget nullam non nisi est sit amet facilisis. Ipsum consequat nisl vel pretium lectus quam. Elit sed vulputate mi sit amet mauris commodo quis. Pretium fusce id velit ut tortor pretium viverra suspendisse potenti.

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