When Thibaut Courtois returned to Stamford Bridge in the summer of 2014 after an incredible season with Atletico Madrid a winning La Liga and reaching the final of the UEFA Champions League a Jose Mourinho faced a goalkeeping quandary not too dissimilar to one he had faced exactly ten summers ago. In 2004, it was Petr Cecha s arrival that displaced the 2003-04 Chelsea Player of the Year Carlo Cudicini. Ten years on, Courtois arrived to stake his claim for a place in Chelseaa s first team.
The Belgian did, as widely expected, replace Cech as Chelseaa s no.1 keeper, leaving the Czech internationala s future at Stamford Bridge up in the air. Perhaps surprisingly, the veteran shot-stopper decided to stay on for the 2014-2015 season and fight for his place in the first team. A Premier League title and a Capital One Cup triumph later, however, there is a mutual recognition that the time has come for a parting of ways.
There is little time for sentiment for Mourinho and Chelsea however, and a replacement for Petr Cech is a top priority for the summer transfer window. Here are three names the Blues should be looking at to fill the goalkeeping void at Stamford Bridge following Cecha s departure.
Asmir Begovic (Stoke City)
The Stoke City stopper has been amongst the best keepers in the Premier League over the past few seasons and a at least in terms of ability a is likely to be the best keeper Chelsea can realistically recruit to provide competition for Thibaut Courtois next season. Although Begovic kept just 7 clean sheets last season, it would be fair to say that the majority of the blame for that lies with Stokea s porous defence.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina international is entering the last year of his contract and should not cost Chelsea much more than A?10m, if that. That fee is likely to be less than what the Blues receive from the sale of Petr Cech to their rivals in north London, and given Begovica s impressive record of over 50 clean sheets for Stoke since signing from Portsmouth in 2010, he is the leading candidate for the no.2 goalkeeping position at Stamford Bridge next season.
The likes of Manchester City, Arsenal, Manchester United and Liverpool are unlikely to pursue Begovica s signature this summer and as such, Chelsea is Begovica s only real chance to play for an elite club in the Champions League and potentially to win trophies a an experience the 28-year-old has yet to have in his career.
The obvious downside, of course, is that it is extremely unlikely that he will be able to displace Courtois as Chelseaa s no.1, and will therefore play fewer games than he has grown accustomed to over the past few seasons. Mourinhoa s job is to convince him that he will see enough time on the pitch. If he can do that, there is every chance that Chelsea will get their man.
Rob Green (Queena s Park Rangers)
Although this is not likely to be a popular signing amongst Chelsea fans given the Englishmana s propensity for comical goalkeeping errors, the 35-year-old QPR keeper could be an ideal stop-gap signing until Chelsea find a more long-term solution. The Englishman has a wealth of experience having played over 300 games in the top flight, and has also played for England on the biggest stage in world football a the FIFA World Cup.
The biggest advantage from Chelseaa s point of view is of course that, along with his quality and experience, Green is a a home-growna player. Premier League clubs are allowed to register a maximum of 17 non home-grown players in their 25 man squads at the start of the season. Last year, Cech took up one of those positions; if Green was to move to Stamford Bridge, an extra non home-grown player slot would be available for an outfield player, potentially contributing to strengthening the depth in Mourinhoa s squad.
The QPR keeper had some outstanding individual performances last season notwithstanding his occasional mistakes, and managed to stand out despite the abysmal defence in front of him. The former West Ham no.1 could be tempted by a move to the Premier League champions knowing that, despite being a deputy to Courtois, he will be playing for an elite club and may have the opportunity to win trophies under Jose Mourinho.
As far as Chelsea are concerned, Green is probably a more realistic target than Begovic, and the Blues are likely to chase the Englishmana s signature should they fail to secure their primary target this summer.
John Ruddy (Norwich City)
The 28-year-old Englishman was prominent for Norwich City as the Canaries gained promotion back to the Premier League this season, and has already proved himself in the Premier League, performing at a commendable level over three seasons from 2011 to 2014 a winning the cluba s Playera s Player of the Year award in 2011-2012.
Like Green, Ruddy presents the significant advantage of being home-grown, meaning that if Chelsea do sign him, they can add an extra non home-grown outfield player to their squad for next season if they so wish. Given he is 7 years Greena s junior and that there isna t a huge gulf in class between the two, he would arguably be a better signing than his QPR counterpart.
However, the fact that he is in his prime also means that he is less likely to settle for fewer games. Indeed, the Englishman reiterated his commitment to his current employers after he helped win promotion for the Canaries, saying, a I’ve always said I’m a Norwich City player until the hierarchy tell me they’ve accepted a bid. Until that day comes, I’m a Norwich City player.a
Despite that, Ruddy is another realistic target in Chelseaa s bid to replace Petr Cech. Whilst Green and in particular, Begovic, have been more heavily linked to the Blues, Ruddya s stock is likely to rise in Chelseaa s eyes if they were to fail in their attempt to convince the Bosnian to move to Stamford Bridge.
It is obvious that, regardless of the signing Chelsea make to replace Cech, they will not find anyone of the same quality. Finding a second-choice keeper is an extremely difficult task, and one that is likely to drag on over the course of this summer. As things stand, Begovic is Chelseaa s best option in terms of quality, and is a target they should seriously pursue above all others in order to strengthen the squad following Cecha s inevitable departure.