Cross Town Rivalry

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar August 15, 2018 19:26

Cross Town Rivalry

By Satish Sekar in Tallinn’s Lilleküla Stadium © Satish Sekar (August 14th 2018)

Gone but not Forgotten

Thibaut Courtois forced through a move from Chelsea to European champions, Real Madrid, by going AWOL, after the Blues broke the transfer record for a goalkeeper by meeting the buy-out clause of £71.6m of Kepa Arrizabalaga Revuelta. Ironically, Real Madrid could have had the former Athletic Bilbao keeper for just £18m, but record-breaking former coach Zinédine Zidane was not convinced. Arrizabalaga, three years younger than Courtois stayed and signed a long-term contract.

While Courtois became the 28th player to have signed for both clubs, the 27th, another keeper Antonio Adán Garrido joined Atlético de Madrid with little fanfare, or controversy. As England’s transfer deadline approached, Courtois’ controversial move happened. But Chelsea fans are far from being alone in expressing their anger at their former goalkeeper. The Belgian, named the best keeper at the FIFA World Cup of 2018, will face probably face former club Atlético tomorrow evening.

Yesterday, Atlético fans branded Courtois a rat, and vandalised the plaque at the Wanda Metropolitana, commemorating his achievements during the three year-loan spell he had with the club, during which Atlético won La Liga and other titles, and announced themselves as a force to be reckoned with in Spanish and European football.

Meanwhile, the sight of one those heroes kissing the badge of their most hated rival was more than Atlético’s fans could take. Strangely, there were no questions on Courtois, or the plaque vandalism to Koke (Jorge Resurrección Merodio), or Atlético’s new first captain, Diego Godín Leal or even Atlético’s master tactician, Diego Simeone who will serve the third of his 4 match touchline ban in Tallinn after missing the Europa League Final in Lyon.

Unlike Atlético’s fans, Simeone remains appreciative of Courtois’ achievements at the club. “He played for us and did very well,” El Cholo was quoted by Marca. “I have thoughts, and we must respect everyone. The people who worked well for us are remembered well. That will not change, even with a rivalry.”

Welcome

Having won 19 trophies with Real, Marcelo was tight-lipped about Courtois, while captain, Sergio Ramos García, welcomed the addition of “any great player,” regardless of their past affiliations.

Ramos didn’t care that Courtois had once thwarted his team for cross-city rivals. “We don’t judge a player’s past when they join Real Madrid, and we are open to any great player coming to the club,” Ramos said, “We won’t question his past with Atlético. We always try to help players adapt well so that they integrate well into the club, which helps them play better than they have before.”

He also paid tribute to Real keeper Keylor Navas Gamboa. The Costa Rican international will surely fall down the pecking order at the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, or leave – there are still two weeks left before Spain’s transfer deadline.

“The goalkeeping position has been in question for a few years,” Ramos told reporters, “but we have always had a great goalkeeper, and we are making it stronger with Courtois.”

Satish Sekar
By Satish Sekar August 15, 2018 19:26

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