Thibaut Courtois would never have forced through a transfer from Chelsea to Real Madrid if his children had lived in London, his agent said.
Chelsea sold Courtois to Real Madrid for £35 million last week after he declined to report for training at Cobham in order to push for the move and then paid £71.5m to Athletic Bilbao to secure Kepa Arrizabalaga as his replacement.
A recurring theme in the four years Courtois spent at Chelsea was the affection he still harboured for Spanish life and culture from his three seasons on loan at Atletico Madrid, and at his unveiling at Santiago Bernabeu, he said he was fulfilling a boyhood dream by joining their more illustrious city rivals.
Courtois also made no secret of his desire to live closer to his two children, who live in Madrid with his former girlfriend, and his agent, Christophe Henrotay, is adamant that family priorities were the governing factor in Courtois’ decision.
“There is a misunderstanding in the feeling that he wants to get a move for the wrong reasons, but certainly he was pushing to go out of Chelsea because of his child,” Henrotay told BBC 5 Live’s “Sportsweek” radio show. “If the family was in London, it would have been totally different. … Of course, he would have stayed. If his family wants to stay in London, there is no reason to leave such a great club like Chelsea. He has won trophies. He could have won more trophies.
“Unfortunately, his kids are living with the mother in Madrid. When he had the opportunity, he had the contract, and it depended on Chelsea taking the decision, but running close to the end of his contract, Chelsea had an interest to find a deal with Madrid, which they did.”
Henrotay said the reason why Courtois missed the two days of training was because he was “a bit stressed by the situation” and while he understands the reaction, supporters must respect the decision given the reason.
“Chelsea really understood the situation and really helped [to finalise the deal],” Henrotay said. “They did a really quick and easy deal together, understanding the humanity of the situation. It is not doing something against their fans. It’s just getting the best of a situation which is not ideal for Chelsea but getting the best.”
Courtois has faced considerable online backlash from Chelsea supporters over the manner in which he got his move, and he felt compelled to delete a social media message thanking the club because of negative comments from fans.
“It’s a move he wanted because of his family and because also he had the opportunity to go back to Madrid — a city he loves — and to such a big club in Real Madrid,” Henrotay said. “When we arrived in Madrid to make the signing, I had his parents of Thibaut, his brother, his sister, his child, the mother of the child — everybody’s there, and I see the family getting back together and I said to Thibaut, ‘I’m so delighted not only to make a great deal for you here in Madrid, but also because I have a family coming together.’
“Everybody, I could see tears in their eyes, and it delighted me very much because I had the feeling to do something not only for a deal, not only for a player, not only for my client, but also for a family, which is great.”
Henrotay said he understand Chelsea fans’ anger, especially because they lost a goalkeeper of Courtois’ quality, but insisted they should not feel that way.
“Thibaut is such a great goalkeeper and he did his best at Chelsea to bring titles and trophies, so it is not a great feeling to lose such a player,” he said.