After months of speculation surrounding the future of Thibaut Courtois and the subsequent question of who would succeed him as the team’s number one goalkeeper, Chelsea have only gone out and broke the record for a goalkeeper transfer fee by acquiring Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao for €80 million (£71.5m). The 24-year-old has signed a seven-year (7!) deal with the club.
The process involved no negotiations with Athletic, as Chelsea simply paid the buyout clause. Sometimes, it is just that easy (and expensive)!
Arrizabalaga, born 60km outside of Bilbao, had been with Athletic since age 10, working his way up the youth ranks and spending a couple seasons out on loan as well before taking over the starting job at the club from veteran Gorka Iraizoz, who had manned the post since 2007 (almost 400 appearances for the Basque club).
Arrizabalaga kept just 15 clean sheets and conceded 65 goals in the 53 league games for Athletic, but consider that they finished seventh and sixteenth, it’s fair to say that he wasn’t exactly playing behind a great defence. Still, he has earned rave reviews for his composure, his consistency, and his command (despite his relatively young age), and was rewarded with a spot on Spain’s World Cup squad as the backup to David De Gea. His footwork and distribution are acceptable and an upgrade from Courtois, though that’s not saying much.
“It’s a very important decision for me, for my career, and also for my personal life. So many things attracted me to the club, all the titles the club has won, the other players, the city, the English Premier League. It’s an accumulation of things, and I am very glad Chelsea has decided to trust me and to take me in as well.”
-Kepa Arrizabalaga; source: Chelsea FC
Arrizabalaga joins a Chelsea team once again in transition, but at just 23, should provide excellent service between the sticks for the foreseeable future.
“Kepa is a talent we have admired for a long time and we are extremely excited about his arrival. He has already demonstrated fantastic quality and consistency and will be a big part of any success Chelsea have in the coming years. His long-term contract reflects the belief we have in him and we look ahead to the coming seasons with an enormous sense of optimism.”
-Marina Granovskaia; source: Chelsea FC
Welcome, Kepa. Let’s win some things!