New Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri said after Sunday’s 2-0 Community Shield loss to Manchester City that he is still getting to know his players after being appointed just a few weeks ago. Chelsea were also forced to play without a handful of players still recovering from deep World Cup runs.
The Belgian trio of Eden Hazard, Michy Batshuayi and Thibaut Courtois are the most noteworthy missing players, while France’s Olivier Giroud and N’Golo Kante and England’s Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Gary Cahill are also still on holiday. All players are set to join the Blues for training this week ahead of this weekend’s Premier League opener.
However, there was a notable absence from training on Monday as Courtois declined to report to the club. Earlier, it was reported that Courtois has told Chelsea officials that he wants a move to Real Madrid. Sarri said after Sunday’s game that he planned to speak to the decorated goalkeeper in order to be sure of his intentions moving forward. The Italian manager indicated that he did not want to keep any player at the club if they wished to move elsewhere.
Based on his failure to report to training, it sure sounds as though Courtois wants out. ESPN FC reported recently that Courtois told Sarri and the Chelsea boss via phone call that he wished to leave, and he reiterated that stance on Monday. The player’s agent, Christophe Henrotay, said over the weekend that Courtois wishes to move to Madrid in order to be closer to his two children, who live in the Spanish capital with his ex-partner.
Choosing a gambling site that lists the Blues with favorable odds at contending in the Premier League season is difficult. Most have Manchester City listed as heavy favorites to go back-to-back, while Liverpool and Manchester United are expected to serve as the Citizens’ chief challengers. Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal and Chelsea may wind up battling it out for the English top flight’s final Champions League spot.
With the closure of the summer transfer window looming later this week, the clock is ticking on the Blues to seal a deal. Real Madrid have been reportedly in the market for an upgrade in goal over incumbent Keylor Navas. When a move for former Roma keeper Alisson Becker failed to come to pass, Los Blancos reportedly set their eyes on Courtois. It sounds as though the interest is mutual.
Courtois, Batshuayi and Hazard were given three weeks off after Belgium’s run to a third-place finish at this summer’s World Cup in Russia. Batshuayi, Hazard and the other aforementioned World Cup participants were all present at Cobham on Monday to resume preparations for the upcoming domestic campaign.
Of course, if the Blues are to sell Courtois then they will have to dip into the goalkeeping market themselves. Willy Caballero is an experienced backup, but Chelsea would do better to find a younger No. 1 than the 36-year-old Argentina international. The Blues were another side linked with Becker, who ultimately moved to Liverpool instead on a world-record transfer worth £56 million in late-July.
Other names you can expect to hear in connection with a move to Stamford Bridge will be Atletico Madrid keeper Jan Oblak and Stoke City No. 1 Jack Butland.
Sarri will be facing quite the tall task this season. After Chelsea stumbled to a fifth-place finish in their title defense campaign last term, manager Antonio Conte was unceremoniously sacked after just two seasons in charge. Sarri already faced an uphill climb after being hired so late in the summer, and now he’ll be faced with the assignment of replacing one of the best goalkeepers on the planet if Courtois gets his wish.
Meanwhile, Atletico Bilbao shot stopper Kepa Arrizabalaga is undergoing a medical in London today before finalizing a move to Chelsea, with Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic likewise set to move to Stamford Bridge on a season-long loan.
The West London outfit have invoked his £71.6 million release clause to Athletic Bilbao, which makes him the most expensive goalkeeper in history. He is relied upon to sign a five-year contract. His arrival would pave an easy path for Chelsea to sell out Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid for about £31 million.