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Courtois walks out on Belgium after decision to hand captain's armband to Lukaku

Goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois asked not to travel with Belgium for their Euro 2024 qualifier in Estonia on Tuesday, telling shocked coach Domenico Tedesco he did not feel respected within the team as he walked out of the squad.

Courtois, 31, played in Saturday's 1-1 home draw with Austria but told Tedesco after the match that he would not make himself available for the Estonia game.

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."

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Tedesco, who took over the coaching reins from Roberto Martínez 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."

Courtois's father Thierry was quoted by Belgian media earlier on Monday as saying his son had pulled out of the Estonia game with a knee injury but Tedesco dismissed this.

"I wish I could say it's an injury but I can't lie," the coach said. "I always try to protect players but that's impossible in this situation. I tried to tell him to hold on for two more days."

Real Madrid goalkeeper Courtois has earned 102 caps since making his Belgium debut in 2011.

Tedesco confirmed Matz Sels would start in goal against Estonia and add to his two international appearances. Belgium have four points from their opening two qualifiers in Group F, having also won 3-0 away in Sweden.

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Christian Radnedge and Clare Fallon)

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