Courtois, the goalie who honed his skills playing beach volleyball

Madrid, May 9 (EFE).- Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, considered by many to be one of the best in the world, turns 30 on Wednesday. The Belgian has been inspirational this season, helping his side secure the LaLiga title with four games to spare and make it to yet another Champions League final after an unlikely run of victories over PSG, Chelsea and Manchester City.

But the towering, 1.99 meter-tall former Atletico Madrid and Chelsea shot stopper, who was born in Limburg, on the border with the Netherlands, was expected to follow in the footsteps of his parents and brothers, all volleyball players.

He started his football career as a left-back, before being converted into a goalie at Racing Genk.

Courtois has often said that playing his family’s preferred sport – particularly the beach version – in his youth was crucial in helping him hone his agility and make him such a formidable obstacle in goal.

In his first season as a pro in 2011, he led Racing Genk to the Belgian league title, earning the prize for the competition’s best goalkeeper in the process.

His performance was such that he was signed by Chelsea at the age of 19 only to move to Atletico Madrid on a three-year loan, as Petr Cech was still the Blues’ first-choice goalie at the time.

In Madrid, he helped the Rojiblancos to win the Uefa Europa League, the Super Cup, the Copa del Rey and the Spanish League as well as reaching the 2014 Champions League final, where he lost to his future team, Real.

He won two Zamora awards for the goalkeeper with the fewest goals conceded in the 2012-13 season, in which he let in 29 in 37 games, and the following campaign with 24 goals in 37 games.

In 2014 he returned to Chelsea under José Mourinho to beat Cech for a spot in the starting lineup. With the Blues, he won two Premier Leagues, an English League Cup and an FA Cup, as well as winning the 2016-17 Premier Golden Glove award.

He returned to Madrid in 2018 to join his current club Real Madrid on a six-year contract, where he secured a starting spot at the expense of Keylor Navas.

He extended his contract until 2026, having become one of the team’s cornerstones under both Zinedine Zidane and current manager Carlo Ancelotti.

With Real Madrid, he has won two LaLiga titles, a Club World Cup and a Spanish Super Cup, and will be hoping to add one more prize to his haul when Real take on Liverpool in the Champions League final in Paris later this month. EFE


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