June 20 – Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (pictured) has denied claims by national team coach Domenico Tedesco that he walked out on the team training camp after being passed over for the captaincy against Austria. Real Madrid’s number one says he has a knee problem.
On Saturday, Courtois featured in Belgium’s 1-1 draw with Austria in the Euro 2024 qualifiers, but Romelu Lukaku wore the captain’s armband in the absence of regular skipper Kevin De Bruyne, who limped off the field during the Champions League with Manchester City against Inter Milan.
Tedesco said it was agreed that Courtois would captain Belgium against Estonia on Thursday.
“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,” said the goalkeeper in a statement.
“I am deeply disappointed with this, but I want to make it clear that the coach’s assessments do not fit with reality.”
“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.”
Having featured in three consecutive World Cups, Courtois has more than 100 caps for Belgium, an achievement that was highlighted at Saturday’s match against Austria.
“There was some talk of selling it as an injury, but I quickly stopped that conversation,” said Tedesco at a news conference.
“It was only about the captaincy issue. I’d like to say it was different, but I can’t lie. Not against you (the press) And not against my players. I always try to protect players, but that is impossible in this situation.”
“I am shocked. Together we had decided that Romelu would be captain against Austria and Thibaut against Estonia. That was okay for everyone, but after the match, Thibaut suddenly wanted to talk to me and said he was going home because he was disappointed and felt offended.”
Tedesco took over from Roberto Martinez after the World Cup and impressed with a 3-0 victory against Sweden on debut before a 3-2 away win against Germany in a friendly.
“Of course, I was also surprised, it is the first time that I experience something like this,” said veteran defender Jan Vertonghen. “Of course, it lives in the group, it has been talked about a lot. It started with rumors and eventually it was confirmed by the coach.”
“I wouldn’t do something like that, but I’ve never been the best goalkeeper in the world either. I myself have been in a situation a few times where I expected to be captain and then it wasn’t. That’s not cool, but you’re trying to accommodate it. I never thought of stopping for the Red Devils for that reason. I didn’t know it was that deep. It’s a sad situation anyway.”
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