Chelsea have today reached an agreement with Athletic Bilbao for the 23-year-old goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in a deal that would see the Blues pay a world record-breaking fee worth £71 million. Here, we give the lowdown on a player whose transfer will send shockwaves throughout the football world.
Who is he?
Thankfully for football fans and journalists alike, Chelsea’s potential new signing is often known simply as Kepa. The young Spaniard made his top flight debut for Athletic Bilbao only as recently September 2016. It is safe to say that his subsequent rise has been nothing short of meteoric.
He has since played 53 league games for Bilbao, and in January he was the subject of strong interest from Real Madrid. However, with just six months remaining on his contract, Kepa instead signed a new contract to prevent him from leaving the club for nothing.
On the international stage, Kepa was part of the Spanish under-19 side that won the European Championships in 2012, with the youngster saving two penalties in the semi-final of the tournament – something that would become a feature of his play. He made his debut for the Spanish senior team in November 2017, before being named in Spain’s World Cup squad this summer. Kepa travelled to Russia but did not feature at the tournament.
Is he worth £71 million?
Is anybody worth £71 million? After Liverpool smashed the previous record transfer for a goalkeeper to secure the services of Alisson Becker from Roma, it could be argued that this is now the market value for top-class goalkeepers. However, with Thibaut Courtois likely heading to Real Madrid, Chelsea needed a new man between the sticks urgently before the transfer window slams shut on Thursday, meaning Chelsea would have to pay over the odds for whoever they signed.
Looking at his goalkeeping ability, if a player is being scouted by Real Madrid, you know he is going to be a decent player at least. Last season, Kepa cemented his reputation of having a knack of saving penalties, saving two of the three he faced in La Liga for Bilbao. The Spaniard has an excellent range of passing – a trait that is becoming more and more important in the Premier League. His shot-stopping ability and lightning-fast reflexes are what originally brought the attention of Real Madrid.
Something that may count against him is his lack of experience. The obvious comparison has been drawn with David de Gea, another Spanish ‘keeper who at first struggled to cope with the physicality and cauldron-like atmospheres of the Premier League. Kepa was going to be signed by Madrid as one for the future, but any player who commands a fee of £71 million is not going to be signed to play second fiddle.
Chelsea are looking to sign this young Spanish goalkeeper with the hopes he can cement his position as the club’s number one for many years to come. The fee may surprise many football fans, but the truth remains that Kepa Arrizabalaga is a highly-promising goalkeeper who could go on to achieve great things in the Chelsea shirt.