Chelsea Don't Need Birmingham's Butland When They Have Courtois
Being a goalkeeper isn't the easiest of tasks for any professional. One mistake and it could effectively ruin a career. Paul Robinson, for example, was never the same following the mishit in Croatia back in 2006 with the watching eyes, and Borat, focused primarily on him, rather than Gary Neville for his backpass on goal.
However, acting as the last line of defence, the rewards can be great. A fine save to keep your team in a division or in a cup final and the shotstopper is the hero, especially if the latter comes down to penalties.
With the game becoming much quicker and technical ability of vital importance, it's no surprise that goalkeeper's have evolved from the previously goal line hugging number one's to the 'Hipsterific' term 'Sweeper Keeper'.
Hugo Lloris, Manuel Neuer and Joe Hart are but three examples of young, gifted 'keepers currently gracing the European game and rightfully winning plaudits from onlookers as they showcase their sweeping capabilities, coupled with their commanding presence in the 18 yard box, and it's no surprise the trio, amongst others, are the cornerstone for the next generation of shotstoppers.
Yet, there is one prodigious youngster that has the potential to become one of, if not the, best number one in the coming years. Belgium international Thibaut Courtois is, in effect, the perfect 'Sweeper Keeper'.
On the books with Chelsea, the Premier League side have opted to loan him to Atletico Madrid over the last 18 months following his arrival from Jupiler Pro League outfit Racing Genk. Courtois spent 12 years with Belgian outfit before securing his switch to Stamford Bridge.
There was just one problem standing between him and the starting spot - Petr Cech. The Czech Republic international has been a mainstay in the Blues starting XI since dislodging Carlo Cudicini between the sticks in 2004.
His time with Los Rojoblancos has seen the 20-year-old earn rave reviews from his peers and it's hardly surprising that a number of Europe's heavyweights have taken a liking towards the consistent performer.
Barcelona are one of those mooted as a potential suitor for Courtois, despite suggestions that the Belgian, along with the aforementioned goalkeeping trio, are four that the Blaugrana have been told are unavailable for transfer.
Reports in Spain intimidate that a move for Manchester United's David De Gea is in the works ahead of the transfer deadline, but it hasn't halted speculation linking the Primera Division side with a move for the Atletico loanee.
They will have boosted in their pursuit to land the youngster as Victor Valdes' successor at the Camp Nou, following the Spaniards hesitancy in signing a new contract at the club, coupled with Chelsea's continued courting of Birmingham City number one Jack Butland.
The 19-year-old has become one of the most sought after English youngsters in recent years following a series of fine performances for both club and country, most notably for Team GB during the Olympics prior to their quarter final penalty shoot out defeat to South Korea.
However, as good as Butland is, he's a goalkeeper that Chelsea simply don't need. Granted, signing him will mean a number of Premier League rivals won't be able to convince the youngster to sign for them, but with Cech the undisputed number one at Stamford Bridge, his playing time, and with it development, will be hindered.
He has shown promise, and plenty of it, at Birmingham and interest in his signature comes as no shock. Yet, unless Cech's injury is more serious that many had initially feared, it would undoubtedly be a waste of money on the Blues behalf.
Yes, Ross Turnbull and Hilario's combined goalkeeping capabilities are about as effective as the Empire's attempt to quash the rebellion and destroy Yavin IV in 'Star Wars: A New Hope'. But with Courtois continuing to excel for Atletico, Chelsea have a readymade Cech replacement in the long term.
Forming a key point in the cornerstone of Diego Simeone's defence, the Belgian has conceded just three goals at the Estadio Vicente Calderon this season. Compared to Butland at St. Andrews and his 22 shipped, it's evident that the former's goalkeeping capabilities is far stronger than the latter, even with an, arguably, stronger defence, despite having played nine fewer games, at the time of writing, this year.
However, when it comes to a statistical breakdown, Butland has arguably been the busier of the two 'keepers, making 126 saves throughout the season thus far in comparison to Courtois' 39. This points to Atletico boasting the stronger of the two defences, a stat that is reinforced by the latter's 10 clean sheets compared to the former's five.
This can indicate that the concentration levels of the Belgian are somewhat superior, with goalkeeper proving to be one of the more testing positions on the pitch. Courtois has, this season in the Primera Division, on average been forced into making a save every 46 minutes - less than one a game.
For Butland, he is called into action significantly more than his goalkeeping counterpart, making a save, on average, every 21 minutes - more than four every 90 minutes. Taking into account that the England international has played nine league games more than Courtois, it still points to the Birmingham City shotstopper being the busier of the two goalkeepers.
There have been suggestions that the Belgium number one could be used in any potential deal for Radamel Falcao to take him to Chelsea, while following the departure of Daniel Sturridge to Liverpool the Blues are in need of bringing in another 'Home Grown' player as part of the ruling the Premier League introduced for the 2010/11 season.
Regardless, Chelsea would be moronic to ship out Courtois in the foreseeable future if they are to make way for Butland. Already established as Belgium's number one, and part of the national team's clichéd 'Golden Generation', the young goalkeeper is only going to improve with time.
Whether the Blues pursue their interest in the Birmingham City shotstopper prior to Thursday's deadline remains to be seen, with Butland, to his credit, turning down an offer from Chelsea to remain at St. Andrews, but with Courtois receiving critical acclaim across the continent; there is no need to move for the former in the foreseeable future.