Truce points to further easing of tensions

Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois (right) and Nemanja Matic (left) react after the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford, UK on Dec 28.
Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois (right) and Nemanja Matic (left) react after the English Premier League soccer match between Manchester United and Chelsea at Old Trafford, UK on Dec 28.PHOTO: EPA

LONDON • Thibaut Courtois has resolved his issues with Chelsea's goalkeeping coach Christophe Lollichon in a further sign that the "palpable discord" between players and management referred to by Michael Emenalo, the club's technical director, is easing.

The Belgium international, who is reportedly eyeing a move to Real Madrid, has begun to work productively again with the club's senior goalkeeping coach after clashes this season.

The friction was in part related to Lollichon's difficult relationship with Jose Mourinho, who was sacked last month.

Courtois is believed to have queried some of Lollichon's training methods during his rehabilitation following knee surgery that he underwent in September.

During this period, Courtois often preferred to warm up with Hilario, the former Chelsea goalkeeper, who is also on the coaching staff. But he has since resolved his differences with Lollichon and has appreciated much of the advice that he has given in recent weeks.

Courtois looked short of confidence when he came back in to the side in last month's 1-0 home defeat by Bournemouth. But he has improved and made outstanding saves in last week's goal-less draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford.

The 23-year-old attributes much of the improvement to his work with Lollichon, particularly on the mental side of his game.

Mourinho and Lollichon clashed over a number of issues, most recently over the former manager's insistence on rushing Courtois back as soon as possible when several members of the club's medical team felt he was not fully fit.

Lollichon took the view that the dependable Asmir Begovic could be trusted to deputise for a longer period.

Mourinho was furious last season when Lollichon gave an unauthorised interview in which he discussed the future of Petr Cech.

The Frenchman had confirmed speculation that the Czech goalkeeper wanted to join rivals Arsenal before the summer transfer materialised.

Now, it is Courtois' Stamford Bridge future that is in doubt.

According to Spanish newspaper OkDario, the Belgian's representatives have informed Real of his desire to play for the Spanish giants.

Los Blancos are expected to be in the market for a new stopper even though Keylor Navas has impressed in goal this season.

Real were minutes away from signing United's No. 1 David de Gea in summer. It is understood that the club remain interested in the Spaniard but de Gea inked a new contract last year that will keep him at Old Trafford until at least 2019.

THE TIMES, LONDON

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on January 03, 2016, with the headline 'Truce points to further easing of tensions'. Print Edition | Subscribe