In a significant setback for both the player and the team, Thibaut Courtois has torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left knee. Such injuries are known for their potential to sideline players for a considerable duration. The Belgian goalkeeper might not return between the posts for Real Madrid this season.
All in all, Courtois’ injury leaves Carlo Ancelotti with Andriy Lunin as his only available goalkeeper. The 24-year-old has limited experience at the highest level, and it could mean that Los Blancos enter the transfer market for a replacement. But with a potential blockbuster move for a certain Frenchman on the cards either this summer or the next one, do not expect the club to splash out.
We are less than a day away before Real Madrid’s 2023-24 Liga campaign begins at San Mames against Athletic Club. The venue and the opponent invariably bring back memories of the 1999-2000 season. A certain Spanish youngster by the name of Iker Casillas had made his debut for Los Blancos in goal on that occasion.
But of course, the similarity of the situation stops there. While on one hand, Casillas took hardly any time to make the starting position his, Andriy Lunin has struggled to make an impact for the past five seasons. The 24-year-old has largely had to be content with his backup role.
Can Lunin fill Courtois’ gloves for Real Madrid?
The 2019 Under-20 World Cup Golden Glove winner is a big talent though and to be on the roster of a club like Real Madrid is a testament to his ability in itself. What does he bring to the table?
Shot-stopping: Lunin is known for his impressive shot-stopping abilities. He has quick reflexes and good positioning, which allows him to make crucial saves, both from close range and distance. He has pulled off some incredible acrobatics over the years. He also has a penalty save to his name in La Liga.
Distribution: Lunin is comfortable with the ball at his feet and has shown an ability to distribute the ball accurately and quickly. This definitely suits Ancelotti’s style of play.
Aerial Ability: Standing at 1.91 meters in height, Lunin is effective in dealing with aerial balls and crosses into the box. His timing and positioning help him command his penalty area and collect crosses confidently. Also, for a man of his size, he isn’t too slow when it comes to getting low, a criticism Courtois has faced over the years.
Communication Skills: Goalkeepers are often seen as the eyes and voice of the defence. Lunin has shown these qualities by communicating with his defenders, organizing the defensive line, and providing guidance during set pieces. He has also displayed the willingness to come off his line, acting as a “sweeper keeper” when necessary.
Experience: Lunin has been around long enough to know how the team functions both on and off the pitch. He also featured during the preseason in the United States.
Lack of long-term options: From the moment the news of the injury broke, lots of names have already been touted as the replacement for the Belgian. Be it David de Gea, Keylor Navas or Yassine Bounou, most of them are older players. Also, the expectation is that Courtois would return to his place in the starting XI when he is back available. How many veterans would want to spend the last years of their careers sitting on the bench?
Although Lunin hasn’t managed to see the pitch much, the same can be attributed to the fact that he has been playing behind Courtois, arguably the best goalkeeper in the world. Almost everyone would struggle to get into the team ahead of the Belgian.
But there have been enough signs to suggest that Lunin could do a job. The talent is definitely there and maybe a run in the first-team is what he needs to unlock his true potential.