Real Madrid: Thibaut Courtois is exactly the right man for the job

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has been impeccable over the last several games, and while his team didn’t keep a clean sheet on Matchday 14, he had another strong display in goal.

At one point, it seemed like Thibaut Courtois was at risk of being benched permanently for PSG loanee Alphonse Areola. Real Madrid fans had grown frustrated with Courtois’ inability to make big saves, and their anger reached a boiling point in a woeful 2-2 draw to Club Brugge at the beginning of October, in which the keeper was subbed at the half with a stomach illness.

Some Madrid fans took Courtois’ substitution as a sign that he wasn’t cut out for the pressure of performing at the Santiago Bernabeu. However, those criticisms could not have been further from the truth.

Before the November international break, Courtois had a streak of five straight games with a clean sheet, racking up 535 consecutive scoreless minutes to top former star keeper Keylor Navas’ streak with Los Blancos.

Unfortunately, Courtois’ impressive streak did not last 90 more minutes. In fact, Real Madrid conceded in just the second minute of their Matchday 14 clash against Real Sociedad, as Sergio Ramos made a horrible, no-look backpass to gift Sociedad striker Willian Jose an early goal. Courtois didn’t have a prayer at stopping this woeful mistake.

He did, however, answer Real’s prayers later in the game. The Belgian standout saved a sure-fire goal minutes later, rescuing Dani Carvajal after he made a few laughable errors to allow in-form forward Mikel Oyarzabal the opportunity to set up his teammates on a platter in the six-yard box.

Courtois then made two more big saves over the course of the game to preserve Real Madrid’s stranglehold at their home fortress against a strong attacking side. Real Sociedad came into the game as one of the most electrifying sides in La Liga, but, despite an early error from the captain, Madrid’s defense applied the proper insulation to Martin Odegaard and Co.’s electric output.

Ferland Mendy and Raphael Varane were exceptionally good on this day, but plenty of credit has to go to Courtois. He continues to shine in big games, whether it’s in Istanbul in the Champions League against Galatasaray or at home after the international break against one of the league’s most dangerous teams.

Courtois has all the momentum heading into Tuesday’s huge Champions League revenge game against PSG, who put three goals past him in September without needing Kylian Mbappe or Neymar. Both stars will be playing on Tuesday, but Courtois won’t be afraid. No, he’s already gone through the gauntlet this season at Real and has come out the other side looking like one of the top five goalkeepers in the world again.

And, of course, Madrid fans are back to adoring him, realizing how talented Courtois is. At Real, it’s important for a keeper to always remain focused. Even in games in which the team has a cushion, counterattacks can happen, and Courtois has been more than up to the task of staying alert to the danger. He made a couple of those kinds of saves against Sociedad.

It’s clear that despite some hiccups last season and early this season, Courtois is the exact right man for the goalkeeping job at the Bernabeu. His ability to respond to pressure and his consistency over the last month has been inspiring to watch.