Thibaut Courtois bio and career stats

KYIV, UKRAINE - DECEMBER 1, 2020: Thibaut Courtois. The football match of Group B of UEFA Champions League FC Shakhtar Donetsk vs Real Madrid FC

Football has evolved in many aspects throughout the years. One example of this would be the emphasis on “playing with the ball at your feet” for modern times goalkeepers. Not to say Manuel Neuer was the first to do it, but that criteria now has a big value on how people rate the guys between the sticks.

Thibaut Courtois is not one of the very best at orchestrating play, but to his credit, his shot-stopping ability and commanding presence made him one of the best of our time. And that translated titles in his decorated career at club level. 

17 trophies spread through 11 competitions. Let’s look at his every step with the help of stats.

Childhood days

Coming from a volleyball-mad family, it wasn’t until the age of 12 that Courtois decided to focus on football, specifically goalkeeping. His parents used to play volleyball at a semi-professional level before Valerie, an older sister, represented Belgium in major international competitions.

He was also helped by his mother’s physiotherapist background as he had someone close to him to assess the level of a multitude of injuries suffered while playing sports – be it volleyball, gymnastics, or football.

Before joining Racing Genk at 7, his first football experience was with the local club Bilzen V.V., where he used to play as a left-back. His birthplace, Bree, also brought Formula One superstar Max Verstappen and Kim Clijsters, a former WTA (Women’s Tennis Association) number one.

First steps at Genk 

As we’ll come to it later, Koen Casteels could be in goal for Belgium in the European championship because of Courtois’ ACL injury. The two goalkeepers first crossed paths before their respective first professional contracts.

With both vying for first-team experience, Casteels initially had the nod ahead, but the latter still had a chance to make his debut at the age of 16 years and 341 days against Gent.

That puts him the sixth youngest player (at the time, the third) to play for the club. After this Friday night fixture which ended 2-2. Courtois had to be patient for the next chance. The next season saw Former Belgium U21 player Davino Verhulst and Hungarian Laszlo Koteles preferred ahead of the two teenagers.

Magical 2010-11

With Verhulst left the club on loan and Koteles had registration issues, Courtois stepped into the number one role only at 18. Genk won the first five of the season, scoring 19 goals in the process, which eased the transition for Courtois.

He ended his first professional season with 11 clean sheets from 30 regular season games. Further three followed in the playoff stage as Genk won the Belgium Pro League for the first time in nine years.

His first title was followed by two individual accolades. Courtois won the Goalkeeper of the Year and Genk’s Player of the Year awards as a teenager.

Chelsea Transfer

It was clear that the young goalie was on the radar of European big clubs. Chelsea, who had Petr Cech at the time spent around €9 million to sign him after a single season of first-team experience. As such, they immediately sent him out on loan to Atletico Madrid for the 2011/12 season.

“Three-year” loan

But that relationship ended up stretching into three full seasons. Atleti managed to extend the deal at the end of the season successively as Chelsea were also happy with the gametime for their future asset.

And it’s not just gametime. Atleti won four major trophies with the young Belgian in goal. 

The first came with the Europa League in his first season. While his parent club Chelsea beat Bayern in Munich for their first-ever Champions League success, Diego Simeone’s warriors dominated fellow La Liga sides Valencia and Athletic Club in Europe.

Courtois played 52 games in all competitions that season. 

The next one started with a game against his club for Courtois. As winners of the then-two European competitions, Chelsea and Atletico Madrid clashed in Monaco in the European Super Cup.

The La Liga outfit had it easy scoring their fourth at the hour mark with the Belgium international already won his fourth trophy months after turning 20.

But, back then, Europa League winners couldn’t reward themselves with Champions League football. Since Atleti finished outside the top-four in 2011/12, they were once again locked with the Europa League. And, Simeone opted to utilize substitute goalkeeper Sergio Asenjo for Thursday nights.

There was once again another trophy at the end of the season in Atelti’s cabinet, however. Courtois beat his future employers this time around as Atleti won the Madrid derby in the Copa del Rey final after extra-time.

The previous season, Courtois saw his first professional red card in a Madrid derby fouling Karim Benzema. In the Bernabeu final filled with plenty of emotion and aggression, it was Cristiano Ronaldo’s turn to be expelled while the Red Devils goalie was named Man of the Match.

Courtois also set a new club record for minutes without conceding a goal at Calderon (820) during this memorable 2012/13 season.

The best was yet to come, however. 2013/14 had Atleti won La Liga for the first time in the 21st century. They were also very close to their first Champions League triumph before a late surge by Real Madrid in a memorable final.

In his final season at Atleti, Courtois also won the Ricardo Zamora trophy for having the lowest goals-to-game ratio in the league season. There was also another win against Chelsea to close this chapter of his career as Atleti reached the Estadio da Luz final after beating the Londoners in the final four.

Long-awaited breakthrough at Chelsea

On his return to England, Jose Mourinho decided to go with Courtois as his preferred choice ahead of the more experienced Cech. His first Stamford Bridge game as a Chelsea player was a big confidence boost as the then-22-year-old kept Leicester City at bay.

Shortly after, he signed a contract extension until 2019. Chelsea won two titles this season with Courtois having to play the lion’s share in the Premier League triumph. Cech played the final against Tottenham Hotspur in the League Cup success, but the youngster had to prevail against Liverpool in the previous round.

2015/16 is not one where Courtois will look back at fond memories. He started the season with a red card at home against Swansea. Eight months later, he saw another red as Man City salvaged a 3-0 win from Stamford Bridge.

He also had to be sidelined for three months due to a meniscus tear that season. The defending champions finished in mid-table obscurity under Antonio Conte while Leicester City ended up being their improbable successor.

Yet, with no midweek distraction the following season, Chelsea reunited with the Premier League trophy. The Golden Glove winner had a big say as he only conceded 28 league goals all season.

They couldn’t finish the season with a domestic double, however, with Arsene Wenger’s Arsenal beat their bogey team 2-1 in the FA Cup final at Wembley. 

Despite Real Madrid’s interest in recalling him to Spain, Courtois stayed one more season at Cobham. Once again, Chelsea failed to qualify for the Champions League despite winning the league the previous season.

But he signed off with another title. Chelsea’s 1-0 success against Manchester United in the FA Cup final meant the custodian won all three major competitions in England.

Real is calling!

With that, Courtois finally did what was expected for some time. A return to La Liga and, more precisely, joining the biggest European club in Real Madrid. Winning the Golden Glove in the 2018 World Cup was a big step in that direction.

After a brief spell where he refused to train to force a move to Madrid, Chelsea finally accepted a £35 million offer for their goalkeeper. The move disappointed both Atletico Madrid and Chelsea fans.

He added the Club World Cup to his impressive list of trophies a few months into returning to Spain. 

As with the norm, he beat his former club for his first domestic trophy with the Spanish giants. He was the difference maker when Real Madrid beat Atletico in a penalty shootout win to lift the Supercopa.

In his second season, he also managed to become the first player to win the league with the two Madrid clubs since 1954. Only 20 goals in 34 matches meant another Zamora Trophy for the Belgian.

Yet, after winning it three times in a row with Keylor Navas, Courtois was unlucky in his first three Champions League campaigns as a Los Blancos. Back-to-back exits in the first knockout ties followed by a semi-final defeat to Courtois’ ex-club Chelsea in 2020/21.

But his best season to date followed right after as he won his third La Liga title before picking the Man of the Match of the Champions League final. He produced one of the finest performances on the big stage as Real Madrid returned to European glory with a 1-0 success over Liverpool.

He had a total of 59 saves in that Champions League campaign. In the following season, Real Madrid won the UEFA Super Cup and Copa del Rey, two trophies Courtois already lifted at Atletico Madrid.

Before the start of this season, Courtois was diagnosed with a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his left leg. He’s not expected to return before the end of the season.

At a club level, Courtois won both the Champions League and Europa League as well as all the domestic competitions of Spain and England.

National Team

Since he was already in the senior team’s rank at the age of 18, Courtois never played a competitive game for Belgium’s Junior teams.

His debut at the Stade de France against France, six months before turning 20, makes him the youngest goalkeeper to play for the Red Devils.

Courtois kept six clean sheets in ten matches of the 2014 World Cup qualifiers as Belgium made it into a major tournament for the first time in 12 years.

After what he called “the biggest disappointment of my career” in Euro 2016, Courtois was voted the best goalkeeper in the 2018 World Cup. Including his solid performance against Brazil, there was a tournament-high 27 saves from Belgium’s custodian as he picked the Golden Glove.

During the next World Cup in Qatar, he played his 100th match for his country against Croatia. He’s the only goalkeeper to reach this number with the Belgium national team.

Despite 6 clean sheets in 10 European Championship games, Belgium were knocked out of the 2016 and 2020 editions at the quarter-finals stage. Although there was some controversy with Kevin de Bruyne, he remained one of the leaders in the vastly experienced national team.

But we’ll not be seeing him at the summer tournament in Germany. The ACL injury means his ex-clubmate Koen Casteels will compete with Matz Sels.

Playing style

Courtois tried to defend himself multiple times about his standard of playing from the back. While he’s adapted to the demands of the ever-changing football world, that’s surely not the first thing that comes to mind about him.

Shot-stopping is his forte with excellent composure and timing in one-on-one situations. His quick reflexes and positional sense are some of the qualities that distinguished him from the very best in the business. 

Thibaut Courtois Trophies Won

Courtios has won several major honours throughout his career – these are outlined below:

HonourClubYears
Belgian Pro LeagueGenk2010-11
La LigaAtlético Madrid2013-14
Copa del ReyAtlético Madrid2012-13
Europa LeagueAtlético Madrid2011-12
UEFA Champions LeagueReal Madrid2017-18
Premier LeagueChelsea2014-15, 2016-17
EFL CupChelsea2014-15
European Super CupsAtlético Madrid, Real Madrid2012, 2018, 2022
FA CupChelsea2017-18
FIFA Club World CupsReal Madrid2018, 2022
Spanish Super CupsReal Madrid2019, 2020, 2023
La LigaReal Madrid2019-20, 2021-22
Spanish Cups (Copa del Rey)Real Madrid2020-21, 2023-24

Individual awards

Let’s start with the in-house recognitions. He won multiple awards in his home country Belgium. The first was back in 2011 when he won Goalkeeper of the Year.

In 2013 and 2014, while he was at Atletico Madrid, Courtois was the recipient of the Best Belgium Player Abroad trophy.

Courtois, Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard are the only winners of Belgian Sportsman of the Year, an award dominated by cyclists since its launch in 1967.

There have been Golden Glove awards aplenty both at club and county. He won the Best FIFA Goalkeeper award in 2018 before adding the Yashin Trophy four years later in the Ballon d’Or.