PETR Cech has hailed Chelsea’s rising star Thibaut Courtois as one of Europe’s top talents and backed him to become the club’s future number one.
Axed boss Andre Villas-Boas brought the young Belgian to Stamford Bridge last summer before immediately sending him out on-loan to Atletico Madrid. The 20-year-old exceeded expectations at Vicente Calderón, keeping more clean sheets than Real Madrid’s Iker Casillas and lifting the Europa League trophy.
However, his chances of breaking into the first-team setup at Chelsea next term were dealt a blow last week as first-choice stopper Cech signed a new contract. Cech’s new deal will keep him at the club until 2016, and with Henrique Hilario still under contract, it looks likely Courtois will remain with Atletico next season.
But the Champions League winning shot-stopper has offered encouraging words to his understudy and believes he will one day challenge him for the gloves.
"I think if you look around Europe and you look at the goalkeepers with top quality that you would expect for a Premier League team, then there are not many as talented as Thibaut is," Cech told the Chronicle.
"This is one of the reasons why Chelsea bought him and got him under contract because he is one of the best talents in European football. He is only 19 and he’s been playing in his home country as a number one choice goalkeeper.
"He managed to win the title which gave him a lot of experience and now he’s done really well at Atlético. He has a chance to become the Belgian national team goalkeeper so it’s great improvement."
In fact, Courtois made his international debut last November against France, making him the youngest keeper ever to play for the Belgian national team.
Cech added: "Hopefully it will continue for him and it will be good for Chelsea as well because you need to look to the future and you need to know that one day we will need him.
"I think this is the reason why Chelsea bought him [to be their number one keeper], but on the other hand obviously I would like to play here for as long as I could which means I need to be better than him. So it depends on me as well."