UEFA Champions League: Thibaut Courtois earns respect with Real Madrid heroics

If Real Madrid's Champions League final win in 2018 was remembered for a nightmare performance by Loris Karius in the Liverpool goal, the Spanish club's victory over the same opponents in Paris on Saturday was in no small part down to the heroics of Thibaut Courtois.

The Belgian showed the importance of having a top-class goalkeeper as he produced a string of crucial saves to deny Jurgen Klopp's team and help Real seal a 1-0 win that allowed them to lift their 14th European Cup.

"When a goalkeeper is man of the match you know something is going wrong for the other team," admitted Klopp ruefully.

Vinicius Junior may have got the only goal at the Stade de France just before the hour mark, but Real's victory would not have been possible without Courtois.

He was credited with a total of nine saves, including a superb strong arm to turn behind a Mohamed Salah strike late on and, perhaps most importantly, a fine early stop to turn a Sadio Mane shot onto the post when Liverpool were in the ascendancy.

"The most important was the save from Mane. I really had to use my two metres to get there and turn fast to get the rebound," Courtois said after collecting his award for man of the match.

The 30-year-old has enjoyed remarkable success in his career ever since winning the Belgian league in 2011 with Genk alongside a young Kevin De Bruyne.

Domestic titles have followed at Atletico Madrid, Chelsea and with Real, while he also won the Europa League in his time with the red and white half of Madrid.

Yet his spell at Atletico also included an agonizng defeat at the hands of Ancelotti's Real in the 2014 Champions League final.

Referencing Italy legend Gianluigi Buffon, who never won a Champions League, Courtois expressed his delight at finally getting his hands on the biggest prize in the club game.

"It is one of the nicest feelings in my life along with the birth of my children," he said. "Buffon is maybe the greatest goalkeeper in history but he never won the Champions League. I didn't want that to happen to me."

Courtois was a regular for Chelsea for four years before returning to Spain to join Real in 2018, just after they had won the Champions League against Liverpool in Kyiv helped by two gifts from Karius.

Keylor Navas was in the Real goal then but Courtois soon pushed out the Costa Rican to make the gloves at the Santiago Bernabeu his own.

However, he stated after Saturday's final that he feels he does not get the respect he deserves back in England.

"There was a magazine in England that didn't put me in the top 10 goalkeepers in the world. That is a lack of respect," he said. "I am not saying they have to put me number one but not to put me in the top 10 is strange. I twice won the Premier League in England with Chelsea and don't think I ever get recognised, and in my first season in Madrid a lot of people laughed at me but now here I am as a winner and it's a nice feeling."

Karim Benzema has got most of the attention after scoring 15 goals on Real's Champions League run, including 10 in a dramatic series of knockout wins over Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea and Manchester City.

Yet perhaps none of it would have been possible had Courtois not saved Lionel Messi's penalty in the first leg of the last-16 series against PSG.

"Obviously that was an important moment also for me personally -- you never know how the game would have gone had he scored," said Courtois, who acknowledged that Carlo Ancelotti's team is double winner against all expectation. "At the beginning of this season, people didn't think we would win La Liga or even reach the semifinals of the Champions League but we have and it is down to the work done by the coach.

"Now we need to rest well and come back strong again next season."


@ Agence France-Presse

15 comments about "UEFA Champions League: Thibaut Courtois earns respect with Real Madrid heroics".
  1. stewart hayes, May 28, 2022 at 9:57 p.m.

    The ref came into the game determined to allow the brutes to prevail against the artists.  By not calling repeated fouls, on Louis Diaz for example, in the form of shirt pulling, shoulder holding etc... the referee clearly decided to apply the rules in favor of one style of play.  I don't see selective enforcement for big games being beneficial to the game or fair to the individuals artists of either team. 

  2. Santiago 1314 replied, May 29, 2022 at 12:27 a.m.

    Asi, Asi, Asi Gana Madrid.!!!... No llores Tanto... The Ref also called back a Perfectly Legal Goal for Mi MADRID... I thought both teams Defenders where Clean and Very Impressive... Lots of World Class Tackles and interceptions ... Only Thuggery was by Liverpool Fans, trying to Break Into the Stadium.!!!

  3. frank schoon replied, May 29, 2022 at 10:23 a.m.

    Santi, Marco van Basten who at one time was a Pro VAR fan, wants the VAR abolished. The VAR causes more problems which were never foreseen. We have refs who have never played or played at a low level who don't understand the intangibles , the spirit and feel of the game and other aspects that if played a the highest would have decided much differently....

    Van Basten that the decision considering the goal called back was a joke for the refs had to go into certain gray areas....

  4. Santiago 1314 replied, May 29, 2022 at 10:21 p.m.

    Frank, I'm OK with VAR... Just think that they need to have some better, Smarter, people in there... That maybe aren't Just Current Refs... Maybe Retired Refs that are more Teachers, that really know the "Rules" on a intricate basis... Especially for this kind of game... How can somebody; (Benzema) be OFFSIDE, when he is Neither, Seeking to gain ADVANTAGE or INTERFERING in the Play, and the Ball Rebounds Off 3 Players, (the Last of Which is the Defenders knee).???

  5. frank schoon replied, May 30, 2022 at 8:16 a.m.

    Santi, Knowing the rules as a ref is not enough,for if that was the default the VAR still isn't working well without problem. It is the same thing if you get your coaching license, to  know how to coach and train doesn't mean you know the game for that's why Cruyff sets apart from the others....

    You wouldn't believe how many idiot things occur with the VAR in Europe throughout the year of which we hear so little of causing van Basten to say what he now thinks of the VAR. To me , it should only be employed for goal line technology and leave the rest for 'shits and giggles'....

  6. humble 1 replied, May 30, 2022 at 6:13 p.m.

    Santi, please read up a bit on the topic of Liverpool fans before commenting off the cuff.  Begets ignorance.  The fans jumping the walls were French.  Watch the film, plenty of it out there.  Pool fans, who had arrived on time, but had been made to wait for hours, were still there, waiting, and were tear gased and pepper sprayed.  Blaming Liverpool fans was the fake news deployed by FIFA, UEFA and French Authorites and spewed by clownish Paramount broadcase crew. I turned off the sound it was so poorly covered early on.  Footage from fans at the ground shows what really happened. 

  7. humble 1 replied, May 30, 2022 at 6:24 p.m.

    There were very good chances for Liverpool, just did not get'em past the big cat, Courtois. Klopps chance creation machine did create chances, the quality of the opponent, man for man, was higher than any team they played this year, and they didn't get any in.  RM was very good against set peices, this was a key, Pool won a lot of games off setpeice play.  Hat tip to Acolotti and staff, they build and developed that team on the fly over the year.  Carvajal, played physical, shirt pulls are typically not called, unless the have an outright impact.  Carvajal was well prepared by the coaching staff, mentally and tactically, to take on Diaz.  He executed.  Well done to him.  They did their homework.  This would be a treatment Diaz would be very familiar with back in CONMEBOL from the WC playoffs.  Columbia did not make it.  The same CONMEBOL that neuturalized essentially neutralized Messi all those years in Copa America, until the last one, when they took the load off him and played like a team, using tactics developed by Uruguayans who used two players playing very physical to disrupt.  It was the same disruptive tactic, only Carvajal was up to the task on his own.  Have a nice day!  

  8. Charles Callaghan, May 29, 2022 at 8:21 a.m.

    Santiago, don't even try to go there. I've listened to that bs narrative for the past 40 years and won't allow someone to kick us when we're down. Don't try to label the entire Liverpool fan base as thugs for the action of a half dozen clowns. I'm sure Madrid fans are all perfect angels. Give me a f'ing break. 

  9. Santiago 1314 replied, May 29, 2022 at 9:29 a.m.

    Charles: I didn't try to "label the entire Liverpool fan base as Thugs"... I Specifically said: "Liverpool Fans trying to Break into the Stadium"... Wonder why the Madrid fans all got into the Stadium On-Time and  Without Issue.??? ... Definitely needs to be an investigation 

  10. frank schoon replied, May 29, 2022 at 10:16 a.m.

    Charles, It's not about Liverpool fans, it is about ENGLISH soccer fans as a whole who have a world wide bad reputation. Yes, we have our own idiots fans in Holland, like by Feyenoord or at times at Ajax, but England takes the cake. I also would be pissed if I were a Liverpool fan and was cheated by having phony tickets for the game, no doubt, if that was the case; but I certainly wouldn't start a fight or create some other stupid action. 

    England has a bad reputation for hooliganism. I had an English roommate, back in the 70's, a Notts County fan, who told me they would rent out a moving van during the day of the game or travel to an away game and would all pack into the van and cruise around and jump out beat up the opposing fans ....I couldn't believe how organized this crap was. 

    And until there are stiff jail sentences meted out to these low life idiots, like a couple of years in jail as a minimum ,you're continually going to this crap going since about 50years ago. Just a couple of years ago, a group of Feyenoord fans wrecked havoc to some historical statues in Rome ,but nobody went to jail. And until we see the parents crying on TV about their son having to go jail for 2-5 years for some hooligan acts but that never happens this crap will continue . European crime laws are just too easy....

  11. humble 1 replied, May 30, 2022 at 6:29 p.m.

    C'mon guys, if you read the news then you know the country with the most problems with hooliganism is not England, rather it is France these days.  In Nice, they are not very nice. St. Etienne fans attacked their players this weekend after they lost to Auxerre in the promo playoff.  The soccer world does not revolve around England.

  12. frank schoon replied, May 31, 2022 at 10:35 a.m.

    Humble, the reason "Hooliganism' is an English word not a french is that it has been going for a little over 50years in England and it still is going on. And yes it happens in other countries at times like in france, or like by dutch fans but you can't compare it to the English, they have the patent on it....
    Anytime an English teams comes to the continent and play, the city prepares for the English onslaught...

  13. Santiago 1314, May 29, 2022 at 10:14 a.m.

    Let's start with this one:
    "Football is a simple game; 22 men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans win."
    Then I paraphrase:
    "Champions League Finals are a Complex Game, 22 players chase the Ball for 90+ minutes and at The End; REAL MADRID WINS.!!!"

  14. humble 1 replied, May 30, 2022 at 6:37 p.m.

    Enjoy your victory.  Liverpool club only takes home about $5m less than RM, so they won't suffer so much.  In the bigger picture, RM had a patron for many years, Franco, when they piled on a lot of sliverware that was as bad or worse than the one everyone's up on arms about now with New Castle.  They are anything but, the peoples team. Liverpool is a blue collar team from a blue collar area that has acheived a lot over the years and can be proud of this run and all their others, they were always done, with grit, passion and hunger and no special favors.  No shame.

  15. R2 Dad, May 31, 2022 at 1:37 a.m.

    As a neutral, I wanted to see LPool win to compensate for the treachery of Ramos 2 years ago against Salah. Credit to ancelloti for turning a floundering and aging Madrid squad into world-beaters. He sat their captain for a CL final! I think CA should escape from Spain now before the Spanish media defile his name and reputation in 2022-23. 

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