Monday, May 20News That Matters

Angry Courtois slams new Belgium manager amid captaincy row & ‘walkout’

Thibaut Courtois has blasted Belgium head coach Domenico Tedesco for presenting a “partial and subjective account” of the captaincy issue that has erupted over the past few days.

Courtois has been at the centre of a major issue within the camp during the current international break. With captain Kevin De Bruyne absent due to injury, Tedesco had a huge decision to make over who will wear the captain’s armband in Euro 2024 qualifiers against Austria & Estonia.

Tedesco chose to split the responsibilities between Courtois and Romelu Lukaku, with the Chelsea star captaining vs Austria on Saturday before the Real Madrid keeper takes the armband for Tuesday’s trip to Estonia.

But he told a press conference that his decision was not accepted by Courtois, who he claims was offended by Lukaku being selected ahead of him and decided to leave the squad.

“Together we decided that Romelu would be captain against Austria and Thibaut tomorrow against Estonia,” said Tedesco. “That was OK for everyone but after the match [Courtois] suddenly wanted to talk to me and said he was going home because he was disappointed and felt offended.

“From the beginning I tried to show him the appreciation he deserves. In my eyes he is the best goalkeeper in the world. I love him as a goalkeeper but also as a human being. I am shocked.”

Reports in the media said Courtois had failed to report for the training ahead of the Estonia match. The 31-year-old has now issued a rebuttal of that claim, which criticises Tedesco, who took over the job from Roberto Martinez in February.

In a statement posted on his website, Courtois wrote: “This afternoon I was surprised to hear the coach’s press conference in which he gave a partial and subjective account of a private conversation we had after the match against Austria.

“I want to make it clear that it is not the first time or the last time that I talk to a coach about issues related to a locker room, but it is the first time that someone decides to tell it publicly. I am deeply disappointed with this, but I want to make it clear that the coach’s assessments do not fit with reality.

“In that conversation I asked him, not for direct benefit, to explain and make decisions to avoid situations that in the past have harmed us while always looking for the general benefit. To be or not to be the national team captain is neither a whim nor a random decision, it should be his decision and that is what I tried to convey to him. Unfortunately I did not achieve my purpose.

“I insist that in no case have I demanded anything and that I have spoken to my teammate Romelu Lukaku to clarify any circumstances related to this situation. At the same time I want to make it clear that I did not have any discussion on any similar subject with any teammate, as has been claimed.

“Furthermore, yesterday afternoon I underwent a check-up for a problem in my right knee. The medical team of my club and the national team were in contact and reviewed all the corresponding material to make the decision to leave the training camp.”

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