Ancelotti and the problem of three goalkeepers

Courtois, Lunin and Kepa have all been in goal this season 
Andriy Lunin, número 13 y portero del Real Madrid, juega en el partido de vuelta de cuartos de final de la Liga de Campeones de la UEFA entre el Manchester City y el Real Madrid en el Etihad Stadium de Manchester, el 17 de abril de 2024 – PHOTO/MI News/NurPhoto/NurPhoto vía AFP
Andriy Lunin, number 13 and Real Madrid goalkeeper, plays in the UEFA Champions League quarter-final second leg between Manchester City and Real Madrid at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on April 17, 2024 - PHOTO/MI News/NurPhoto/NurPhoto via AFP

Real Madrid face a decisive month without knowing who will be in goal against Bayern Munich in the second leg or in a hypothetical final at Wembley. Carlo Ancelotti has been making a number of decisions about his preferred goalkeeper from the start of the season in August until 30 April 2024, the day they visit the German side.   

Lunin had one and a half feet out of Real Madrid before the start of the season. Ancelotti did not want the Ukrainian and preferred that he leave the team and leave as second-choice goalkeeper one of the reserve team, either Diego Piñero, Lucas Cañizares or Fran González. It was enough for the Italian, who likes to rely on experienced players rather than give opportunities to youngsters.  

Courtois' injury forced Real Madrid to move in the market because Lunin would not be Ancelotti's first-choice goalkeeper under any circumstances. Although Bono, the Sevilla and Morocco goalkeeper, sounded strong, his absence for a month and a half due to the Africa Cup of Nations made Real Madrid think again.   

El portero belga del Real Madrid Thibaut Courtois (C) y sus compañeros de equipo celebran al final del partido de fútbol del Grupo F de la UEFA Champions League entre el Celtic y el Real Madrid, en el estadio Celtic Park, en Glasgow, el 6 de septiembre de 2022 - AFP/ANDY BUCHANAN
Real Madrid's Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois (C) and his teammates celebrate at the end of the UEFA Champions League Group F football match between Celtic and Real Madrid at Celtic Park stadium in Glasgow on 6 September 2022 - AFP/ANDY BUCHANAN


Kepa was about to fly to Munich when Chelsea changed his ticket to take a plane to Madrid. A guaranteed goalkeeper, international, experienced in the Champions League and one of those that Ancelotti likes. Lunin barely played a couple of games until Kepa acclimatised. In those press conferences, the Italian had no problem in confirming Kepa's starting place as soon as he was available, despite Lunin's good performances.   

The very thin line that separates goalkeepers from defending a goal or warming the bench was crossed by Kepa the day he got injured. Carlo Ancelotti returned the Ukrainian to the pitch and could not take him off in view of his good training sessions, his interventions and, above all, his strength in high balls, something in which Kepa had failed miserably in that match against Atlético de Madrid that cost Los Blancos defeat.  

There was nothing to suggest that Ancelotti would be back in goal until the end of the season. Nothing, that is, except Courtois. The Belgian recovered in less than the expected nine months and it is said that one day in Valdebebas Carletto confessed to Javi Martínez that Courtois would be a starter as soon as he recovered. What neither the coach nor the future coach, a former Bayern and Athletic player, expected was that the player would rupture his meniscus in the same training session.   

Carlo Ancelotti, entrenador del Real Madrid, supervisa el partido de fútbol del Grupo C de la Liga de Campeones de la UEFA entre el Real Madrid y el SSC Nápoles en el Estadio Santiago Bernabéu de Madrid, España, el 29 de noviembre de 2023 - PHOTO/NURPHOTO VÍA AFP/CIRO DE LUCA
Real Madrid coach Carlo Ancelotti oversees the UEFA Champions League Group C football match between Real Madrid and SSC Napoli at the Santiago Bernabeu Stadium in Madrid, Spain, on November 29, 2023 - PHOTO/NURPHOTO VIA AFP/CIRO DE LUCA

The recovery is on the right track and Ancelotti is determined to give the Belgian some playing time. It won't be in the first leg of the semi-final, but it could be in the second leg and it will almost certainly be in Cadiz just before they host the Germans. The obsession goes so far as to compromise the hypothetical Wembley final. Courtois would be the chosen one, but, if he can't make it, the fear is that Ancelotti will doubt whether Kepa or Lunin should play in that game.   

The problem of the three goalkeepers did not exist until Ancelotti decided to give in to his way of understanding players and reward merit. At that moment, a complicated dilemma arose in which experience is mixed with security under the sticks and good training sessions. Three goalkeepers for three games.