Sheffield United
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Kepa Arrizabalaga to Chelsea: Five things to know about Spain keeper

With Kepa Arrizabalaga seemingly on his way to Chelsea as Thibaut Courtois' replacement, here's five things to know about the Basque goalkeeper.

1. Set to be world's most expensive

With Chelsea prepared to trigger an €80 million release clause in his Athletic contract, Kepa is set to become the world's most expensive goalkeeper.

Alisson's move to Liverpool is the biggest ever deal for a keeper so far, with Chelsea's hierarchy having reportedly decided last month that £65 million was too much to pay for the Brazil international. Courtois' determination to leave for Real Madrid has led to an apparent change of mind at Stamford Bridge, and even more money has been found to bring in a new top class No.1

Elsewhere in the top 10 biggest keeper transfers are Gianluigi Buffon, Manuel Neuer and David De Gea. They all moved for big money earlier in their careers, and proved to be excellent value over the long term for Juventus, Bayern Munich and Manchester United respectively.

Chelsea will be hoping their investment looks equally as wise.

2. Almost joined Madrid for €20m last January

Zinedine Zidane put his foot down to stop Madrid signing Kepa during last winter's transfer window, when his release clause was just €20m.

Preisdent Florentino Perez was keen to bring him as part of a policy of snapping up the best young local talent. The move was so close that Kepa was widely reported to have undergone a medical in the Spanish capital on Jan. 4 while Paris Saint Germain were also apparently considering a deal.

But Zidane held firm to his public commitment that he did not want reinforcements midseason, a first sign of friction with Perez and something which may have led to Zidane's exit at the end of the campaign. So Kepa signed a new Athletic deal which ran until 2025, containing the much bigger clause.

3. Has one senior cap for Spain

After playing for Spain all the way up the youth ranks, including winning an Under-19 European Championships medal under Julen Lopetegui, a first senior cap arrived in a friendly against Costa Rica last November.

Kepa then travelled to the 2018 World Cup as back-up to De Gea, with the United man's poor form through the group stages leading to speculation that interim boss Fernando Hierro would give Kepa a first competitive international game in the round-of-16 clash with Russia.

In the end De Gea kept his place, and new La Roja boss Luis Enrique has a choice to make for his first games in charge next month against England and Croatia.

4. Took a while to come through at Athletic

Although long-tipped for the top, Kepa's progress into the first team at San Mames was not totally smooth. He has only played a relatively small number of La Liga games (53).

The teenager's first call up to the senior Athletic squad came back in May 2012, when Marcelo Bielsa was in charge. But he did not get on to the pitch and then stayed behind Iago Herrerin as understudy to veteran first choice Gorka Iraizoz. That meant loan spells at Segunda sides Ponferradina and Real Valladolid, before Ernesto Valverde finally decided on a first start in September 2016.

Kepa did not look back from there, and quickly settled in as first choice at San Mames, with his athleticism and reflexes making it slightly odd that it had taken so long for him to make the breakthrough.

5. Penalty specialist

Kepa's reputation as a penalty saving specialist began at the U19 Euros in 2012, when he denied France's Samuel Umtiti and Geoffrey Kondogbia in a semifinal shootout, helping Lopetegui's side reach the final.

Last season in La Liga went well too, with Kepa saving spot kicks from Villarreal's Manu Trigueros and Malaga's Youssef En-Nesyri. 


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