Thibaut Courtois
Thibaut Courtois Reuters

A very public feud has erupted between Belgium National Football Team coach Domenico Tedesco and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. A war of words between the two has been made public after they gave different versions of a private conversation that took place between them about the team's captaincy.

The issue stemmed from the ongoing Euro 2024 qualifiers. Manchester City star Kevin de Bruyne usually wears the captain's armband, but he has been sidelined due to an injury picked up during City's UEFA Champions League final against Inter Milan last week. The hamstring tear has left De Bruyne out of commission, and the captaincy up for grabs.

Just like in most teams, there is typically a hierarchy within the team, and a number of vice captains are always in line to take over if the captain leaves the pitch or is unavailable. For Belgium, both Romelu Lukaku and Courtois are vice-captains.

It has now been revealed that an agreement was internally made wherein Lukaku would wear the armband against Austria on Saturday, June 17. Then, in the Tuesday match against Estonia, Courtois would take over captain's duties. It seemed like an amicable arrangement, but Tedesco revealed otherwise.

Two sides to a story

On Monday, Tedesco claimed that Courtois came up to him after the match against Austria on Saturday and said that he was "offended" after being overlooked for the captaincy. He then suggested that this was the reason why the Real Madrid keeper opted to pull out of the squad ahead of Tuesday's match.

"Together we decided that Romelu would be captain against Austria and Thibaut tomorrow against Estonia," he said, as quoted by the BBC. "That was OK for everyone but after the match [Courtois] suddenly wanted to talk to me and said he was going home because he was disappointed and felt offended."

Tedesco then clarified that he wanted to be fair and show his players his appreciation, and he was shocked that Courtois reacted that way to his decision to split the duties between his vice captains. "From the beginning I tried to show him the appreciation he deserves. In my eyes he is the best goalkeeper in the world. I love him as a goalkeeper but also as a human being. I am shocked," added the Italian.

Courtois slams the manager for his comments

Following Tedesco's press conference, Courtois was forced to take to his website to tell his side of the story. He expressed his disappointment at having his private conversation with his coach made public, while also denying that he "demanded" to have the captain's armband.

As to what the conversation was about, the goalkeeper said, "I asked him, not for direct benefit, to explain and make decisions to avoid situations that in the past have harmed us while always looking for the general benefit.

"To be or not to be the national team captain is neither a whim nor a random decision, it should be his decision and that is what I tried to convey to him. Unfortunately I did not achieve my purpose."

Tedesco accuses Courtois of lying about his injury

After speaking about the captaincy issue, Courtois denied that he left the training camp as a form of protest after being "overlooked." He shared that it was a joint decision by Real Madrid and Belgium's medical teams based on the results of an examination on his knee.

"Yesterday afternoon I underwent a check-up for a problem in my right knee. The medical team of my club and the national team were in contact and reviewed all the corresponding material to make the decision to leave the training camp," he said.

After hearing that Courtois' father blamed the injury for his son's departure, Tedesco had earlier said, he "can't lie."

Goalkeeper Matz Sels will start for Belgium against Estonia in the absence of the Courtois. It remains to be seen how the relationship between the player and the manager will progress moving forward.