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Courtois leaves Belgium team camp, reports of captaincy row

Thibaut Courtois has left Belgium’s training camp ahead of a qualifying match for next year’s European Championship, amid reports in local media that the Real Madrid goalkeeper was frustrated not to be handed the captain’s armband in the previous game.

The Belgian federation (RBFA) confirmed to The Associated Press that Courtois had left the camp and would miss Tuesday’s match in Estonia, but did not give a motive for his departure.

Belgian media reported on Monday that Courtois, who played in Belgium’s 1-1 draw versus Austria on Saturday, was disappointed with coach Domenico Tedesco’s handling of the captaincy.

In the absence of Manchester City midfielder Kevin De Bruyne, who missed the match versus Austria after picking up an injury in the Champions League final, Tedesco had given the captaincy duties to forward Romelu Lukaku, who responded by scoring Belgium’s equalizer.

The Het Nieuwsblad newspaper reported that Courtois — who has played 102 matches for the Belgium — was frustrated by the decision and did not show up when players gathered back at the team’s hotel to prepare for the Estonia game.

Tedesco had announced on Saturday that it would be Courtois’ turn to wear the armband against Estonia.

Strasbourg goalkeeper Matz Sels is now expected to replace Courtois in goal.

Tedesco says Courtois’s unhappiness spilled over when striker Romelu Lukaku was given the captain’s armband for the Austria game in the absence of injured regular skipper Kevin De Bruyne.

“Together we decided that Romelu would be captain against Austria and Thibaut tomorrow against Estonia,” Tedesco told reporters on Monday.

“That was okay for everyone but after the match he [Courtois] suddenly wanted to talk to me and said he was going home because he was disappointed and felt offended.

“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.”

Tedesco, who took over the coaching reins from Roberto Martinez after a surprise first-round exit at the World Cup in Qatar last November, would not be drawn on Courtois’s future with the national team.

“It’s not the right time to say anything about that, because we have an important game tomorrow,” he said. “The next games are in September and we will see then.”

Belgium trail Austria, who host Sweden on Tuesday, by three points in Group F but have one match in hand.

Steve Carr

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