Cour­tois: ‘We have si­lenced the crit­ics and the laugh­ter’

The Observer - Sport - - SPORT PREMIER LEAGUE CHAMPIONS - Do­minic Fi­field

Thibaut Cour­tois has said Chelsea’s play­ers were stung by their fail­ings last sea­son, when they were re­duced to laugh­ing stocks as their ti­tle defence fiz­zled out, and praised his team-mates for bounc­ing back to re­claim the Premier League ti­tle.

The Bel­gium in­ter­na­tional has fea­tured in all but one of the cham­pi­ons’ league games this sea­son, claim­ing his fourth do­mes­tic league ti­tle in seven sea­sons spent at Genk, Atlético Madrid and Stam­ford Bridge, with his form re­stored to that seen dur­ing Chelsea’s suc­cess in 2015. No other

goal­keeper can match the 16 clean sheets he has se­cured this cam­paign, form that has helped ex­or­cise the mem­ory of the side’s 10th-place fin­ish 12 months ago.

“It’s amaz­ing, es­pe­cially af­ter last year,” he said. “We had a lot of crit­i­cism, a lot of laugh­ter at us. To bounce back in this way, to be cham­pi­ons … Af­ter the Ar­se­nal game [in Septem­ber] we were maybe in a bad mo­ment again, but we bounced back and had an amaz­ing six, seven months. We’re very proud about that.

“Last year, we had a mo­ment when we were 15th, 16th in the league and peo­ple laughed at us. We were crit­i­cised and that’s not nice af­ter a sea­son when you had won the league. Some crit­i­cisms were de­served and oth­ers were not. They said we didn’t want to play any more, they said we were lazy, that kind of stuff, which wasn’t true.

“We tried to win our games but last year was just an off-year. Ev­ery­body is used to play for tro­phies and that was not the case, so ev­ery­body’s pride was hurt. That’s why we wanted to bounce back this sea­son. To do that by win­ning the ti­tle again, that’s amaz­ing.

“Our work ethic com­bined with a hunger of not want­ing an­other sea­son like last year. We have a lot of win­ners in this team.” Cour­tois, who has been linked with a re­turn to Spain with Real Madrid, joined the un­der­used Wil­lian in com­mit­ting his fu­ture to Chelsea in ad­vance of the team’s re­turn to the Cham­pi­ons League. “Next sea­son that is a new goal com­ing for us,” the 25-year-old said. Re­tain­ing stel­lar names such as Eden Hazard will be crit­i­cal, as well as Wil­lian (left) and other elite squad play­ers. “My fu­ture is here with Chelsea,” said Wil­lian, last sea­son’s player of the year, who has started 13 league games this time round. “I have a con­tract un­til 2020 and I am happy here.”

Rhap­sody in blue: (from left) César Azpilicueta, Pe­dro, Diego Costa, John Terry and Mar­cos Alonso cel­e­brate af­ter win­ning the Premier League. Nigel Rod­dis/EPA

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