Belgium’s No.1 may have had to settle for a mid-table Bundesliga career had his final year in education gone differently
The career of Real Madrid’s Thibaut Courtois could have turned out very differently if he hadn’t been struggling in school, Hoffenheim’s former head of scouting has revealed, as the danger of being held back a year playing a major role in Chelsea signing him as a teenager.
Courtois and Koen Casteels – now at Wolfsburg – came up together in Belgium at Genk’s renowned academy, with both players causing a stir around Europe owning to the fact that two special goalkeeping talents were coming through at the same time.
Lutz Pfannenstiel, Hoffenheim’s head of scouting in 2011, revealed that the Bundesliga side were very close to pulling the trigger on signing Courtois but ultimately stalled due to the fact that he was having trouble in class as his graduation date grew closer.
“In the summer of 2011 there was a strange situation in the goalkeeper market,” Pfannenstiel wrote in a column for Goal Germany. “I worked as head of international relations and scouting for Hoffenheim, when suddenly two of the greatest talents in Europe appeared at the same academy.
“Koen Casteels and Thibaut Courtois were developing into hot prospects at the excellent goalkeeping school of KRC Genk and, as an excellent sports director, Ernst Tanner had that information on his screen.
“We were very quick at the time in 2010 and Courtois was on our minds. There were intensive discussions and everything looked good for a transfer.
“His parents really wanted their son to graduate first, though, and there would be no transfer before that. Then, the boy had some problems in school at this point and was in danger of being held back. That’s why the transfer broke off.”
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While Courtois has established himself as No.1 at both the Santiago Bernabeu and with the Belgian national team, Pfannenstiel asserts that he could well have had Casteels’ career – spent entirely with mid-table German clubs – instead.
He said: “The fact that the careers of Koen Casteels and Thibaut Courtois have developed so differently – at least in the public’s view – is down to two things, in my opinion: Casteels’ introverted attitude and the fact that he went to Hoffenheim, and Courtois going to Chelsea and Atletico instead.
“At the time, it could easily have been the other way around.”