Real Madrid's Thibaut Courtois demands 'respect' after Champions League final heroics

Belgian goalkeeper named player of the match after producing nine saves to deny Liverpool

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Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has demanded his critics "put some respect on my name" after the Belgian delivered one of the great Champions League final performances to guide Real Madrid to a record-extending 14th European Cup.

Real beat Liverpool 1-0 inside the Stade de France, courtesy of Vinicius Junior'ss 59th-minute goal, but the Belgian's saves made the difference. Courtois produced nine saves in total, including six from Mohamed Salah alone, as Real managed to hold Liverpool's fearsome attack to a clean sheet.

"I needed to win a final for my career, to put some respect on my name," said Courtois, who won his first Champions League title having finished runner-up with Atletico Madrid in 2014.

"I'm really happy and proud of the performance of the team. We've beaten the best clubs in the world. (Manchester) City and Liverpool were unbelievable this season. Liverpool played a great game but we had one chance and we scored it.

"It's incredible, so many years, so much work. Come to the club of my life. I saw many criticising me. Today we have shown who is the King of Europe," he said. "I felt good the last few weeks. Once you make the first stop. Nobody could take away my desire to win the Champions League."

Of all the superb saves, Courtois picked out the stop on Sadio Mane, when he tipped a shot from the Senegalese forward onto the post, as the pick of the bunch.

"The most important was the save from Mane. I really had to use my two metres to get there and turn fast to get the rebound," he said after collecting his award for player of the match.

Courtois, 30, has enjoyed remarkable success in his career ever since winning the Belgian league in 2011 with Genk alongside a young Kevin De Bruyne.

Real Madrid goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois was named player of the match in the Champions League final. EPA

Domestic titles have followed at Atletico, Chelsea and with Real, while he also won the Europa League in his time with the red and white half of Madrid. Yet his spell at Atletico also included an agonising defeat at the hands of Ancelotti's Real in the 2014 Champions League final.

Courtois was a regular for Chelsea for four years before returning to Spain to join Real in 2018, just after they had won the Champions League against Liverpool in Kyiv helped by two gifts from Loris Karius.

Keylor Navas was in the Real goal then but Courtois soon pushed out the Costa Rican to make the gloves at the Santiago Bernabeu his own. However, he stated after Saturday's final that he feels he does not get the respect he deserves back in England.

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"There was a magazine in England that didn't put me in the top 10 goalkeepers in the world. That is a lack of respect," he said. "I am not saying they have to put me number one but not to put me in the top 10 is strange.

"I twice won the Premier League in England with Chelsea and don't think I ever get recognised, and in my first season in Madrid a lot of people laughed at me but now here I am as a winner and it's a nice feeling."

Karim Benzema has received most of the attention after scoring 15 goals on Real's Champions League run, including 10 in a dramatic series of knockout wins over Paris Saint-Germain, Chelsea, and Manchester City.

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Yet perhaps none of it would have been possible had Courtois not saved Lionel Messi's penalty in the first leg of the last-16 tie against PSG.

"Obviously that was an important moment also for me personally – you never know how the game would have gone had he scored," said Courtois.

"At the beginning of this season people didn't think we would win La Liga or even reach the semi-finals of the Champions League but we have and it is down to the work done by the coach. Now we need to rest well and come back strong again next season."

There was only one downside for Courtois - he missed his brother's wedding but promised to make up for his absence.

Updated: May 29, 2022, 5:31 AM