Thibaut Courtois won Real Madrid this ChampionLeague Ittime
เวลา:2023-03-05  ผู้เขียน:

After winning Madrid another Champions League, Courtois deserves respect

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Thibaut Courtois won Real Madrid this Champions League. Its time hes shown some respect

Which save was Courtois best vs. Liverpool? (1:26)

Gab Marcotti and Julien Laurens discuss Thibaut Courtois incredible performance for Real Madrid vs. Liverpool in the Champions League final. (1:26)

In the end, theChampions Leaguefinal betweenLiverpoolandReal Madridwas all aboutSergio Ramos-- again. And hell love that.

Liverpools second shot atLos Blancosin the ultimate club final in the space of four years was supposed to be about whatMohamed Salahcraved: revenge. It would be payback for the moment in 2018s final in Kyiv when Ramos hauled him down to prevent a breakaway that threatened to give Jurgen Klopps team the lead, a decision that ended in theEgyptstriker dislocating his shoulder and being led, tearfully, from the pitch in the 30th minute of what became a 3-1 defeat.

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In the end, 2022s final in Paris was actually all about what Real Madrid goalkeeperThibaut Courtoiswanted: not simply victory, but for his iconic moment in a Champions League final to date -- a full-length left-to-right dive that failed to stop Ramos brilliant added-time header from sneaking into the postage-stamp space between his fingertips and the right post ofAtletico Madrids goal in the 2014 final in Lisbon -- to be erased from memory. That night,Los Rojiblancoswent from 1-0 up with seconds remaining to a 4-1 thrashing in extra-time. Courtois couldnt live with that image defining him.

Both men wanted to shake Ramos from their Champions League final pain. Salah couldnt; Courtois could -- and did. The Belgium goalkeeper produced a majestic evening in the umpteenth match this season, across all the competitions in which Madrid competed, when a rival left the pitch thinking: Why didnt we win that?Howdoes Courtois do those things?!

After the match on Saturday night, Courtois told Spanish media in the mixed zone: Desire is what really makes the difference in a big final like this. The key is having repeated to myself, Today is my day. This is what Ive worked for. Today Im going to win this trophy. I willnotlose another final. So to make that happen is a fantastic feeling.

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The strange thing is that, if you asked dedicated Real Madrid fans whether this was Courtois best game, either since joining fromChelseain 2018 or even over the past two seasons, many would stop, ponder and name days when he has been more crucial toLos Blancoswinning. But beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and many others will claim that the occasion, pressure, rival and trophy at the end means Saturdays performance was his zenith.

However, Courtois thinks he has been at his best level for the past two seasons. Earlier this term he admitted, ruefully, that it seemed his own evaluation didnt seem to count for much, that Madrid finishing trophyless in 2020-21 had obscured how superbly hed played every week.

Rueful then, angry later when U.K. football magazine FourFourTwo -- usually considered intelligent and reliable -- published their ranking of goalkeepers around the world and, ludicrously, didnt place Courtois in the top 10. For anyone who knows anything about football, it was a complete aberration from the word go. Nevertheless, a small seed for the magic Courtois produced to deny Liverpool in Paris on Saturday was planted.

Not long after the issue was published in March, Madrids keeper gave an interview to Miguel Serrano TV and, when asked about it, said: These people only show themselves up. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and Im not claiming that Im first, second or third, but if neither I nor [Gianluigi] Donnarumma are in this top 10, then somethings gone wrong. What happens is that, later, you find that its people like this often get a vote in footballs individual prizes, and its then they confirm that theyve really got no idea at all.

NFL legend Tom Brady -- maybe youve heard of him -- held a totally different view and launched a cross-Atlantic barb of his own. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback, inarguably one of the great sportsmen of all time, in any sport, sent Courtois a signed shirt with the inscription: Thibaut -- the best goalkeeper in the world!

Thats the context required to understand why Madrids man of the match, in his first on-pitch interview after beating Liverpool 1-0, said: Today, I needed to win a final -- for my career, for all the hard work, to put respect on my name because I dont think I have enough respect, especially in England. I saw a lot of criticism that I was not good enough or whatever.

Later, he added: I said at the press conference on Friday that when Madrid play in finals, they win. I then saw a lot of tweets saying I would get humbled. It was the other way round. Liverpool were very strong today. I think I played a great game, and that was the difference.

In FourFourTwos ranking,Aaron Ramsdale(Arsenal),Jose Sa(Wolverhampton Wanderers),Unai Simon(Athletic Club),Yassine Bounou(Sevilla),Jan Oblak(Atletico Madrid) all were named ahead of the man who has won 15 major trophies; played for Atletico, Chelsea and Madrid; and finished third at the 2018 the World Cup. Are you surprised it stung him? That he stored it and used it as motivation?

And then those who curate the list of candidates for the Yashin Trophy, the Ballon dOr for keepers, didnt include Courtois either. In the voting for the 2021 award, he came in eighth, unbelievably enough, behind such luminaries as Aston VillasEmiliano Martinez, LeicestersKasper Schmeicheland Oblak -- the Atleti keeper notoriously going through the worst form he has shown since moving to Spain eight years ago.

Craig Burley explains why Thibaut Courtois excellent goalkeeper play pushed Real Madrid to a win in the Champions League final.

If you havent been watching Madrid this term, then let the statistics guide you. Courtois needed to make 59 saves (more than anyone else) to win the Champions League and pulled off about 100 more than that in order to hand Madrid the LaLiga title. Remember, this is only the second timeLos Blancoshave managed to become champions of Spain and Europe at the same time since 1958.

ForwardsKarim BenzemaandVinicius Junior, with more than 100 goals and assists between them this season, have caught the eye more. MidfielderLuka Modrichas a tendency to do very special things on big occasions, too, but Courtois has been Madrids close-combat bodyguard across the past two seasons. His middle names are Nicolas Marc, but if there were any justice in the world, they should be Notoriously Magnificent.

When he eventually looks back at his exploits at the Stade de France, Ill wager you that he rates the first-half save fromSadio Mane, with the scores level at 0-0, as his best technically. Against a raging drive, Courtois fingertips did what they couldnt quite do in Lisbon eight years ago and tipped the ball onto the post. He quickly followed that up by leaping to his feet and pouncing on a loose ball in the 6-yard box before Salah could touch it into the gaping net.

Then, Id guess, hell say that the second-half save from Salah was the most vital. There were nine minutes of normal time remaining, hed already thwarted the Egyptian (twice) andDiogo Jota, but a goal at that stage, and Klopps mentality monsters would not simply gain scoreboard parity, theyd have crucial momentum to go with their relentless attacking.

Salah made good on his threat with a cannon of a shot that erupted off his right boot. How Courtois deflected it wide when the ball hit the top edge of his right arm, rather than getting a solid hand on it, we can only marvel at. Not only did it keep Madrid ahead, and effectively seal their 14th Champions League win, it caused two iconic images that, now, can erase that of Courtois despairing and futile full-length dive as Ramos scored past him in 2014 with Atletico smelling the trophy.

Salah, on seeing the ball ricochet violently off to the right and out for a corner kick, sank to his knees in disbelief and despair.David Alaba, already a double Champions League winner withBayern Munich, showed just what the split-second brilliance meant to him by leaping, like a child with his dad, fully into Courtois arms and wrapping his legs around the Belgians torso. Disbelief from Salah; utter, rampant relief from Alaba. Magic.

What competed with Courtois nerve, physical size, mentality, decision-making and will to win in Paris on Saturday was his agility. For most of his important saves, he was throwing himself left or right to defend efforts destined for the lower corners, a feat thats vastly difficult for a 30-year-old who is 6-foot-7 -- or at least it should be.

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Earlier this season, this phenomenal competitor, whose parents were both top-level volleyball players and who was himself tempted to dump football for the sport of his mum and dad, explained: I played volleyball every summer, beach volleyball with my parents. In terms of reflexes, even at a young age I loved to jump and dive on the floor. I think that a volleyball player who is two metres tall has to drop to the ground very quickly, he has to have a good spring, he has to follow the trajectory of the ball well when the setter passes to him. Im fast for someone who is two metres tall. Maybe its my parents genes, but it might also come from volleyball.

Real Madrid fans can be grateful for those formative years. Grateful, too, for the patient his mum happened to be treating when Courtois was an impressionable kid.

My mum is a physio, and she was treating someone who would travel to watch Madrid play two or three times every season. He was a massive fan, Courtois told UEFA. I already admired and followedIker Casillasat that time, but this guy brought me back a Real Madrid flag, one of Casillas shirts, too -- stuff like that. My mother wasnt really a football fan but since I was with my mum at work quite a lot, I heard lots of stories about Real Madrid and so I likedLos Blancosmore and more thanks to that coincidence.

Thats how it started way, way back, but this is how it started at the beginning of this Champions League season: Madrid went to San Siro on Matchday One against Simone Inzaghis Inter Milan. The reigning Italian champions were fitter, faster and feeding off the home crowds rabid desire to teach Carlo Ancelottis team -- remember, hes anAC Milanlegend -- a lesson. Madrid were under pressure. Edin Dzeko threatened to score time and time again, but Courtois masterfully denied all theNerazzurriplayers before Rodrygo popped up with a goal to make it 1-0.

We faced a keeper that its really very difficult to score against, Inzaghi said that night. On Saturday night, Klopp justifiably said: Courtois made three world-class saves.

Praise, appreciation and a Champions League trophy lift, at last, for a keeper who isnt simply the best at his job anywhere in the world right now -- and has been on and off throughout his entire career -- but is, arguably, among the best three or four footballers, at any position, anywhere in football. Let the Ballon dOr awards this year match the reality of the situation forBelgiums big, bold, brash and utterly brilliant Spanish and European champion. Benzema is the clear winner, but Courtois should be second. Time to put things right there as well.

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