Thibaut Courtois has refused to make the trip to Tallinn for Belgium’s Euro 2024 qualifier against Estonia on Tuesday after he was denied the honour to stand in as the team’s captain last week.

In the absence of regular skipper Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku wore the captain’s armband for a 1-1 draw with Austria last Saturday.

Coach Domenico Tedesco said the plan had been for his two vice-captains – Lukaku and Real Madrid goalkeeper Courtois – to lead the side in one match each during the international break.

“After the game, Thibaut suddenly wanted to talk to me and told me he was going home because he was disappointed and felt insulted,” Tedesco told a press conference on Monday.

Tedesco noted, “In my eyes, he’s the best goalkeeper in the world. I appreciate him as a goalkeeper and also as a person.

“I’m surprised and shocked that he felt offended and disappointed.

“In March, we decided that Kevin would be captain and there would be two vice-captains – Lukaku and Courtois,” he added.

Courtois, in a statement, said he was “surprised” to hear Tedesco “give a partial and subjective view of a private conversation.”

According to Courtois, “I asked him, not out of personal interest, to explain and take decisions to avoid situations we have already experienced that harmed us.

“To be captain or not isn’t a whim or a random decision. It’s up to him (Tedesco) to decide, and that’s what I tried to make him understand.”

Strasbourg ‘keeper Matz Sels will take Courtois’ place in goal for the Estonia game.

Belgian media reported that Courtois’ decision also came as a surprise to his teammates.

“It’s a sad situation,” said veteran defender Jan Vertonghen.

“I would prefer Thibaut to be there, but the group process is important. That process is now certainly disrupted, and a solution will have to be found.”

Belgium was affected by reported infighting during the World Cup last year when they crashed out in the group stage, with De Bruyne saying during the tournament the team was “too old.”

The previous captain Eden Hazard retired from international football after the debacle in Qatar, and coach Roberto Martinez left.

Belgium has four points from two games in Euro qualifying, sitting second in Group F behind Austria.

AFP

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