Chelsea have offered to make Thibaut Courtois the best-paid goalkeeper in the world and are growing increasingly optimistic the Belgian will sign a new contract.
Courtois will earn, including bonuses, more than the £200,000 a week David De Gea is paid by Manchester United if he signs a new deal that could run to 2023.
Chelsea are now concentrating their efforts on trying to secure the future of Courtois early in the New Year and have put any interest in Stoke City and England goalkeeper Jack Butland, and other potential replacements, on hold.
Real Madrid’s interest in Kepa Arrizabalaga has increased hope at Stamford Bridge that Courtois, who played for three seasons on loan at Atletico, can now be persuaded to stay.
Courtois has made it clear that he eventually wants to return to Spain, where his two young children live, but that avenue may not be open to him in the near future with Madrid tipped to sign Kepa from Athletic Bilbao in January.
The 25 year-old’s current £100,000-a-week deal will only have one year to run at the end of the season and Courtois had suggested he was willing to wait until the summer to discuss his future with Chelsea.
Courtois rejected the club’s first new contract offer in May, but Chelsea have now come back with a proposal that they hope will be too good to turn down. Further talks are likely to take place in the coming weeks aimed at reaching a final agreement.
The future of Courtois has become one of the most pressing issues on Chelsea’s agenda in recent weeks. The club are also hopeful of agreeing a new contract with his Belgian compatriot Eden Hazard, but the forward’s situation is not as urgent because his deal runs to 2020.
Head coach Antonio Conte has already warned Chelsea that they risk losing the best goalkeeper in the world if a new contract cannot be agreed with Courtois.
Despite admitting that he misses his children, Courtois recently suggested he is preparing to stay at Chelsea by saying: “I love my children to death. When you miss them, you are sometimes wondering – shouldn’t I play in Spain in the next few years? That’s why I want to take time to decide how many years I want to sign up. When I sign, I want to tell Chelsea that I have been here for so many years because I am happy here.
“I like playing here, it’s a nice city, but of course I’m thinking about my private situation. I do not see any reason why I shouldn’t sign, but I just want to take my time with everything. I think I will have an agreement with Chelsea before the season ends.”
Conte has become used to speculation over the futures of Courtois and Hazard, but is confident that his players, like him, will remain focussed on helping Chelsea through their busy Christmas schedule.
“In this period there are a lot of rumours,” said Conte. “We have to live with these rumours. For sure, my players are very clever to be focused on this period – to play, to go game by game, not listen to these rumours. Also because a lot of these rumours are not true.”
Asked about the chance of David Luiz and Kenedy, who have both been linked with Newcastle United, leaving in January, Conte added: “A difficult period is starting, especially for every club, for every coach. We must be ready to face this situation.
“I think the best way for me is not to read (anything) and only talk with the club. But there will be a lot of rumours now.
“We must be ready to face them while, at the same time, be ready to be focused and go game by game. We play every three days, so it’s not right that these rumours disturb us.”
Chelsea will try to add to their squad in January with Thomas Lemar and Ross Barkley on the club’s radar, and Conte is still interested in Virgil van Dijk and Alex Sandro.
“If there is the possibility to improve the squad on the numerical aspect, I think it would be a good choice,” said Conte. “But, at the same time, I’m enjoying working with these players.
“At this moment, I’m ready to continue to play with all these players. They are showing me great commitment, great behaviours, and I’m very happy to work with these players.
“At the same time, if there is the possibility to improve our squad, I think the club will try to do this.”