Thibaut Courtois has said he is close to signing a new contract at Chelsea and the goalkeeper suggested what has been a long-running saga could be finalised in the next few weeks. Courtois also hinted that his Belgium team-mate Eden Hazard could be ready to follow suit by committing his longer-term future to Chelsea.
Both players have been tracked by Real Madrid and it has been possible to detect a confidence from the Spanish club, at various times, about their chances of signing them. Courtois, whose deal at Chelsea expires in the summer of 2019, has sent out mixed messages. But he appeared to be firm over his intention to extend at Chelsea after the club's 2-2 draw at Arsenal on Wednesday night.
“It has just turned the new year so we will wait a few weeks and then sit around the table,” Courtois said. “I’m happy at Chelsea and a deal is close. Has it been a distraction? Not for me. I’m just calm and relaxed because I’m tied to Chelsea. Despite the rumours and everything, I am focused on Chelsea and I’m happy here.”
Hazard is contracted to 2020 and Courtois did not pull his punches about the damage that the forward’s departure would cause. But he offered encouragement, too, that Hazard would spend the peak years of his career at Stamford Bridge.
"Losing a player like Eden would be bad for the club," Courtois said. "Eden is irreplaceable. With the money he will raise, you can buy five players but none of them will be like Eden. It would be like Barcelona losing Lionel Messi or Real Madrid losing Cristiano Ronaldo.
“If you excel, there will always be teams interested in signing the biggest players. But that’s why if Chelsea have ambition to be the best club in the world, these kind of players have to stay.
“Do Eden and I encourage each other to sign? Yes. He will say: ‘If you sign, I will sign,’ and I say the same to him. I think we are both happy at Chelsea, we both have a good part to play. We have been champions twice in the four seasons I have been here and we can have our peak years together at Chelsea.”
Chelsea sit third in the Premier League – 16 points behind the leaders, Manchester City – and their title defence appears to be over. But Courtois remains confident that he can finish the season with a major trophy. Chelsea have advanced to the last 16 of the Champions League, where they have been drawn to face Barcelona.
“I think it is important that we keep on playing for first spot in the league and, as well as that, a big one for me is that we can win the Champions League,” Courtois said.