The last thing Chelsea boss Antonio Conte wants is to lose key players, but to lose them on a free would be an even bigger blow for the Italian tactician.
That’s the threat he faces according to The Sun, who claim that Chelsea could be willing to let Thibaut Courtois leave on a free transfer when his contract expires in 2019 rather than cash in and sell him to Real Madrid next summer.
In an ideal world, the Blues will hope to negotiate new terms and reach an agreement on a long-term contract with the Belgian international to prolong his stay at Stamford Bridge.
However, with no such progress being made in talks, as per the report, the 25-year-old could run down his current deal and opt to leave west London for a return to the Spanish capital.
Courtois enjoyed a successful three-year loan spell with Atletico Madrid between 2011 and 2014, making 154 appearances for the La Liga giants and winning the La Liga title as well as enjoying a run to the Champions League final in 2014.
He’s continued that impressive run of success with two Premier League titles in three years at Chelsea, and having firmly established himself as one of the top shot-stoppers in Europe with the Blues, it would be a major loss for Chelsea to see him leave for any fee, let alone for nothing.
In turn, it remains to be seen how the situation plays out as Conte will undoubtedly hope to have his reliable No.1 between the posts at his disposal for the foreseeable future.
Accepting a big-money offer from Real Madrid next summer, if one arrives, would arguably be the smarter decision though if it becomes apparent Courtois has no interest in penning a new contract.