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