Kepa Arrizabalaga to Chelsea: All you need to know about him

By Mutala Yakubu
Kepa Arrizabalaga
Kepa Arrizabalaga

Faced with the loss of Thibaut Courtois, Chelsea are preparing to break the world transfer record for a goalkeeper in paying £71.6m to bring in Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao.

It is a huge decision to sign a 23-year-old with only one cap for Spain to his name. But in an inflated market, this was arguably a necessary move to avoid an alarming dip in quality.

Jack Butland would have been the more straightforward option. A fee of £30m might have been enough to prise him away from relegated Stoke City. But given that Butland has only a middling record - think of his costly mistake at Leicester or the two goals conceded against Everton - the risk was that Chelsea would have been back in the market again soon.

In moving for Kepa, the hope is that Maurizio Sarri has secured Chelsea's first-choice goalkeeper on a long-term basis. If he is not quite the best 'keeper in Europe, he is at least part of the discussion. Kepa came close to joining Real Madrid in January and was part of Spain's World Cup squad this summer. This is a player of considerable talent.

Background

Like many academy graduates at Athletic Bilbao, Kepa took his first steps into senior football at fourth-tier feeder club Basconia before representing Bilbao Athletic - the Basque club's B team. There were then second-tier loan spells at Ponferradina and Real Valladolid, where he gained more valuable experience.

It served him well when he returned to Atheltic Bilbao in 2016 and became their first-choice goalkeeper in Ernesto Valverde's final year in charge.

The current Barcelona coach awarded him his debut in La Liga away to Deportivo La Coruna and was soon praising his "great maturity" in the role.


"He has some things that he knows he has to improve," said Valverde later that season, after Kepa had helped Athletic qualify for Europe. "But he is a goalkeeper with good reflexes, a great presence and a great confidence that he transmits to others." In November 2017, he duly made his senior debut for Spain in a 5-0 win over Costa Rica.

Source: Skysports