Real Madrid's Courtois says it all clicked after Galatasaray
Speaking ahead of Los Blancos' Champions League Last 16 first leg against Man City, the Belgian goalkeeper pinpoints when things started going right.
In the last seven months, Thibaut Courtois has gone thought all manner of emotions. From the insecurity of the beginning of the season fuelled by poor statistics (nine goals conceded in the first five games), and in the lingering shadow of PSG's Keylor Navas - the man who won three consecutive Champions League titles - he became a frustrated figure. He was pointed at after the 3-0 humbling in Paris, and then whistled by his own fans in the Bernabéu against Club Brugge where he conceded two goals and remained in the changing room at half-time complaining of stomach problems.
Courtois' Madrid rebirth
That period was followed by his rebirth - he had, we should remember, been the Golden Glove winner at the 2018 World Cup - with a string of impressive saves and numerous clean sheets for Madrid. And there were his heroics against Valencia when he headed in the last-gasp corner that paved the way for Benzema to score, and in the Spanish Super Cup where he excelled against Atlético in the final, including saving a penalty from Thomas. But just when he appeared to be back to his full physical and psychological best, doubts were again raised against Levante with Morales' goal winning the game, and where the Belgian was inexplicably seen to shrug his arms.
For Courtois, though, the turning point of his season came on 22 October in Istanbul, when Madrid beat Galatasaray by a single goal to nil. Before that encounter, the keeper had felt the target on his back after the wrecks of Mallorca, Brugges and PSG. Even in other less dramatic games, he had not proven himself as the solution between the sticks for the levels that Los Blancos continued to aspire to.
"Against Brugge we managed to get a point which was key to us qualifying, but against Galatasaray things changed for me," Courtois explained to Proximus Sport. "I suddenly had the feeling that no one was getting past me."
After the game, he revealed that his national team manager, Roberto Martinez, said to him: "There I have seen the Courtois of the World Cup again."
Courtois saved every effort on target that night in Turkey and sent a message to others:
"I know the goalkeeper that I am and I have never doubted myself. I know where I am and I'm only interested in constructive criticism."
Since that game, Real Madrid's first choice stopper has only conceded 10 goals in 19 games (0.5 per game), while keeping 11 clean sheets along the way. This is a marked improvement from the 1.3 per game prior to that point, with only two clean sheets.