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Courtois is on the Brink of Ending his Career. The Real Goalkeeper has Significant Health Problems

Feeble knees and radiculitis

Real Madrid's streak of bad luck with injuries this season continues. The most frustrating aspect is that the player in recovery for seven months is now injured again. In August of last year, goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee and underwent surgery. In January, the Belgian began light training; in February and March, he trained fully, and coach Carlo Ancelotti planned to put him in goal on March 31 in the match against Atletico Madrid. Now, that won't happen for sure - Thibaut has injured his meniscus in his right knee and will be out for the rest of the season.

Courtois will not play again this season after the operation

Injuries are a part of a professional athlete's life. Each one not only causes physical pain but also comes with immense psychological pressure. Falling out of one's usual form and maintaining a competitive spirit is very difficult, especially if the athlete has been absent for over half a year. Unsurprisingly, when Courtois couldn't finish training on March 19 after a snap and sharp pain in his right knee, he left the club base in tears. The goalkeeper, who will turn 32 in a month and a half, can be understood - indeed, the thought of the need for another long rehabilitation and the associated psychological discomfort was echoing in his mind.

"A little step back on the way to a big comeback. I'm proud of your strength," - supported the footballer's wife, Michelle Herzic, on social networks. Thibaut underwent surgery the day after the injury: everything turned out not to be as severe as the goalkeeper thought. He will miss about seven weeks, but he definitely won't have time to get back in shape and help Real Madrid in the decisive stage of the season.
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Courtois's last official match was on June 17 as part of the Belgian national team, after which he defended the goal of Madrid in summer-friendly matches. Shortly before the 2023/2024 season started, he tore his knee ligament. This means missing a whole season - a massive ordeal for any footballer, especially at the peak of his career. Thibaut's injury was also a shock for the team, as since joining Real in 2018, the Belgian has always maintained the highest level.

The goalkeeper's hallmark - the 2021/2022 Champions League final against Liverpool, in which Courtois showed a stellar level of play and helped Real Madrid win the trophy. The team's number one made eight saves and kept a clean sheet with Liverpool's xG at 3.1. "When I played in England, I didn't feel the proper respect for my game. So, in the match against Liverpool, I had extra motivation. I'm glad I managed to prove to myself and the critics how good I am," - Courtois beamed after the match.

Real Madrid dismissed the club doctor because of an epidemic of injuries

Real Madrid is experiencing a real devilry with injuries. In addition to Courtois, seven more players ended up in the infirmary in the last six months. Kepa Arrizabalaga suffered a torn muscle, Eder Militao tore his ligaments, Aurelien Tchouameni was sidelined after a fractured ankle, and Eduardo Camavinga strained his knee ligament. Also, various injuries led to absences for Jude Bellingham (shoulder dislocation), Arda Guler (tear of the left thigh muscle), and Vinicius Junior (recurrence of the Achilles tendon injury).

The situation is discouraging for any team, and for a club like Real Madrid, even more so. In such circumstances, Carlo Ancelotti's real coaching feat is to keep Real Madrid afloat, confidently lead in La Liga, and maintain a presence in other tournaments. It's no wonder that club president Florentino Perez appreciated the coach's work and extended the agreement with Carlo until 2026 with the possibility of staying at Real Madrid in another position after that period.
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Logically, organizational conclusions followed - at the end of last autumn, the club decided to part ways with the chief doctor, Nico Michich, who had been working in Madrid since 2017. Initially, he was praised for his ability to get players in top shape for essential games. Still, a couple of years ago, the players began to suffer from frequent relapses. David Alaba, Karim Benzema, and Dani Ceballos were in the infirmary with varying frequency. Michich's fate was finally decided by the situation with Guler. The doctor was against surgical intervention, but the club listened to the renowned Spanish doctor Manuel Leyes and performed the operation - this specialist stated that conservative treatment would only worsen the situation.

Andriy Lunin has done a great job replacing Courtois this season. Still, with Thibaut in Real Madrid's goal, apart from the high level of reliability, he also had a much more diverse arsenal of tools. The Belgian brilliantly led the defense and initiated attacks - in La Liga, he had one of the highest touches per game (on average about 35 per match with a pass accuracy of around 80%). The composed Courtois charged his teammates with confidence, which is especially important in critical moments. "Thibaut demonstrates the level of magic in games every day in training. This allows outfield players to feel liberated," - Ancelotti praised the goalkeeper.

In Courtois's medical history, it should be noted that the son of professional volleyball players had already grown to 180 cm by age 13 - despite excellent anthropometry, he refused to stand in goal and played as a left-back. It didn't work out well, and Thibaut often missed matches due to knee pain. The Belgian still became a goalkeeper for many reasons - his height is now precisely two meters. However, such dimensions are an advantage and a problem in certain situations. In addition to his limbs, his back suffers.

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Courtois has the same problem with his back as Mike Tyson

Courtois seriously suffered for the first time in the 2015/2016 season - during training, he tore the meniscus of that same right knee, which the Belgian injured recently in Madrid. The operation was successfully performed at one of the clinics in Barcelona, and then the goalkeeper missed three months. "Thibaut underwent surgery for detachment of the posterior corner and medial part of the inner meniscus of the right knee. The successful operation consisted of reattaching the meniscus by suturing," Chelsea's press release said, for which the goalkeeper played at that time.

Real Madrid doctors confirmed that eight years later, the Belgian had problems at the site of the scar left eight years ago. "Usually meniscus injuries are minor tears - reducing inflammation, rest, and proper rehabilitation measures can help avoid surgery," The Athletic quoted traumatologist Gerardo Meras. - But sometimes dire things happen when the meniscus tears and require a procedure called arthroscopy. With such an injury, the player feels his knee is locked."

A relapse is always wrong because the nature of the injury can become chronic. Also alarming is that a torn anterior cruciate ligament and meniscal damage are essentially similar problems, indicating that the joint cannot withstand the load. The case when the giant goalkeeper suffers from his own dimensions - the Belgian weighs 96 kg.
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It is also not surprising that Thibaut constantly complains of lower back pain - in the fall of 2022, he missed a month due to sciatica (compression of the sciatic nerve or, put, radiculitis). This can lead to the development of intervertebral hernias and protrusions, which almost excludes professional sports. For example, due to the exacerbation of sciatica, the famous boxer Mike Tyson is periodically forced to move in a wheelchair.

Courtois is still a very young guy, but the complexity of his health problems suggests that returning to the highest level will be difficult. Of course, he will continue to fight, and Real Madrid will give him a chance - but if nothing works out, then the beautiful story will end. Far from sentimentality, Florentino Perez will definitely not extend the Belgian's contract, which ends in 2026.

Published by Patrick Jane