Thibaut Courtois was the star of the Champions League final, repeatedly denying Liverpool, and in the end, it was Real Madrid who triumphed.
If Real Madrid’s Champions League final victory over Liverpool in 2018 was remembered for Loris Karius’ horror performance in the Liverpool goal, the Spanish club’s success over the same opponents in Paris on Saturday was largely down to Thibaut Courtois’ heroics.
The Belgian demonstrated the value of having a top-tier goalkeeper by making a series of key stops to thwart Jurgen Klopp’s team and help Real win their 14th European Cup.
“When a goalkeeper is man of the match you know something is going wrong for the other team,” admitted Klopp ruefully.
Vinicius Junior scored the game’s sole goal shortly before the hour mark at the Stade de France, but Real’s victory would not have been possible without Courtois.
He was credited with nine stops, including a great strong arm to put away a Mohamed Salah strike late in the game and, perhaps most crucially, a fine early stop to send a Sadio Mane shot onto the post when Liverpool was in control.
“The most important was the save from Mane. I really had to use my two metres to get there and turn fast to get the rebound,” Courtois said after collecting his award for man of the match.
Since winning the Belgian league with Genk alongside a youthful Kevin De Bruyne in 2011, the 30-year-old has had amazing success in his career.
Domestic titles followed with Atletico Madrid, Chelsea, and Real Madrid, and he also won the Europa League with the red and white half of Madrid.
Nonetheless, his time at Atletico included a heartbreaking loss against Ancelotti’s Real Madrid in the 2014 Champions League final.
Courtois acknowledged his joy at finally winning the Champions League, comparing himself to Italy star Gianluigi Buffon, who never won the competition.
“It is one of the nicest feelings in my life along with the birth of my children,” he said.
“Buffon is maybe the greatest goalkeeper in history but he never won the Champions League. I didn’t want that to happen to me.”
he stated after Saturday’s final that he feels he does not get the respect he deserves back in England.
“There was a magazine in England that didn’t put me in the top 10 goalkeepers in the world. That is a lack of respect,” he said.
“I am not saying they have to put me number one but not to put me in the top 10 is strange.
“I twice won the Premier League in England with Chelsea and don’t think I ever get recognised, and in my first season in Madrid a lot of people laughed at me but now here I am as a winner and it’s a nice feeling.”