The Belgian press already calls it «Courtoisgate».
And Belgium’s new coach, Domenico Tedesco, says finding out was a shock.
Thibaut Courtois’s decision to leave Belgium’s training camp ahead of a Euro qualifier due to not being selected as captain plunged the team into crisis mode on Monday, just six months after their regrettable exit from the World Cup. .
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Courtois abruptly left camp and will miss the game in Estonia on Tuesday apparently because he does not feel recognized for his true worth.
«I’m still surprised and shocked, of course, because we didn’t expect something like this to happen,» Tedesco said in Estonia.
Courtois, who played in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against Austria, was disappointed with Tedesco’s handling of the captaincy.
In the absence of midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who was injured in the Champions League final, Tedesco handed over the captaincy to striker Romelu Lukaku, who responded with Belgium’s equalizing goal.
Courtois, who has 102 caps for Belgium, was frustrated by the decision and did not show up when the players gathered for the Estonia game.
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«Everything was fine, and after the game he wanted to talk to me,» added Tedesco. “He told me that he is, of course, offended that he is not the captain and that he would be leaving the camp. And of course, I tried several times to talk to him: ‘Don’t do that to me, no’. Don’t do that to the staff, don’t do that to the team. Because it’s hard, it’s a tough decision that he made.»
Courtois’s father, Thierry, denied there was an intra-team dispute, telling Footnews that his son was allowed to leave due to knee inflammation following discussions between his club Real Madrid’s medical teams and the belgian federation.
«They examined his medical images and, based on this, it was decided to rest him,» he said.
However, Tedesco, who called Courtois «the best goalkeeper in the world», told reporters that Courtois was not injured.
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«For me it would be easy, believe me, I would like to tell you that it is an injury issue,» Tedesco said. «But then I would lie to you, I would lie to the team and the staff, and I can’t do this.»
Tedesco announced on Saturday that it would be Courtois’s turn to wear the bracelet against Estonia. Strasbourg goalkeeper Matz Sels is now expected to replace Courtois in goal.
Courtois made a superb reflex save shortly after Lukaku’s goal against Austria and was praised by Tedesco after the match.
«I can’t tell you how much I appreciate having it,» he said. «He saved us in that situation, that could be a 1-2, and you lose this game.»
Tedesco, who is unbeaten in three games in charge of Belgium after replacing Roberto Martinez this year, also cited Courtois’ performance in a 3-0 win in Sweden in March.
«He’s the best,» Tedesco said. «It’s important to us that he feels valued.»
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Tedesco was tasked with rebuilding when he became manager. Belgium was ranked No. 1 by FIFA for four years during Martinez’s six-year tenure, but never won a major tournament. Several of the «golden generation» of Belgians (Eden Hazard, Axel Witsel, Toby Alderweireld) retired from international service after the last World Cup and it would be a great loss if Courtois joined them.
Asked if he would leave the door open for Courtois to return to the national team after the summer break, Tedesco said: «It’s not the right time to talk about it.»
Although he has been playing with his lineups, Tedesco has been able to field exciting teams in his first three outings.