The Courtois conundrum
Philandering with Spain is always condoned by footballers. Even though the Premier League is the most competitive and rewarding league, not just in all of Europe, but in the whole world, the idea of playing for Real Madrid or Barcelona is too hard to resist.
Chelsea players in the recent history have been the most notorious philanderers with Diego Costa re-joining Athletico Madrid which left the club nursing the wounds suffered in the absence of a goal poacher.
Morata’s arrival and a year long acclimatization hasn't helped and even before recovering from Costa's loss, several other key players have been seduced by the aphrodisiac nature of the Spanish league.
A colourless defence of the title, and a lack of attacking motif in Conte’s game led to widespread resentment from the core of the team. As early as the start of the second half of the season, it was clear that Conte might not remain at helm at the start of the next season.
The ambiguities relating to the incoming manager and the clubs transfer activities had driven the players to the penumbra of the club with several superstars unwilling to pen an extension.
Thibaut Courtois and Eden Hazard let out signs of exhaustion at the club's lack of progress as a European powerhouse and expressed their desire to leave for more gratifying challenges during the World Cup showdown.
Several things have changed from then and now. Sarri took charge, Jorginho followed and these events speak for themselves that Chelsea will be looking to play more attractive and dominating football.
Hazard rumors have died down since then but the 'Courtois saga' has been smoking all the while, stoked by the agent and Thibaut himself. But with hardly three days for the summer window to close, it seems inevitable that Courtois will walk away to new and greener pastures.
With Jordan Pickford signing a new deal and Chelsea likely to be priced out of a move for Oblak and Donnaruma, and the lack of Champions League lure, here are a few real time alternatives.
Jack Butland is the most easily available option mainly due to his current club's lack of premier league stature. He might be the most economic option in today's inflated market. He is on the right side of his age and has shown the presence of natural shot stopper instincts ever since making his debut.
He has also been long linked to Arsenal which in itself talks about the prospect at hand. From the graph for last season, he has the highest save per 90 minutes among the sample, and plays a sizeable amount of long balls.
Pepe Reina was a main stay at Sarri’s Napoli. He has always been a decent keeper but when one talks about reflexes and instincts, there are many better in today’s game. But what made him an essential cog of Napoli was his passing accuracy, and his level of comfort with the ball at his feet.
Sarri demands his defenders to play out of tight situations rather than clearing the danger away and the shot stopper is not exempted when it comes to being a part of that escape route.
Also his early judgements to come off his line and play a sweeper keeper role was essential to playing a high defensive line.
Butland is known for making his presence at the back known and is not averse to the idea of getting out of the box when needed. But it is his passing and distribution skills that bode questions.
Trailing in that segment, he just completed his 46% of the passes compared to 80% by Reina and 70% by Courtois. His saves per 90 minutes might also be a misleading stat as he took heavy firing from most of the Premier League clubs last season as Stoke nose-dived into championship.
When it comes to reflexes and stopping short range attempts, there are very few who can outclass the Costa Rican. Despite exceeding expectation season after season, Real Madrid have been linked with De Gea and Courtois.
He might be the latest scape goat to the “galactico-phenomena” of the Madrid, but there is hardly any doubts about his capabilities. With a 75% pass accuracy, he can be a good replacement for Courtois between Chelsea’s uprights.
Slightly rigid footed, he may not be the sweeper keeper Sarri ultimately wants, but he can be perfect for a tough season where Chelsea might have to take some opposition shelling until the team gets used to the new setup.
Engineering a swap deal which Real can’t deny would be a win-win situation for both clubs. All the more so, since past instances of Courtois' indifferent form when the club plays uninspiring football or during tough times can resurface, if Chelsea keeps him against his wishes.
When rumours linking Butland is flooding the internet pages, he looks the most likely replacement, but Keylor Navas seems to be the more reassuring option, which gives Chelsea enough time to find a long term successor.
Kasper Schmeichel is another real possibility but falls behind both Navas and Butland when it comes to the ambitions that a club like Chelsea encompasses.