Four things Chelsea fans need to know about goalkeeping target Kepa

After all the talk about who will be Chelsea’s number one goalkeeper, a completely new face has reportedly emerged as most likely.

According to the Guardian, Athletic Bilbao stopper Kepa is set to become the Blues’ replacement for Thibaut Courtois; for £71.6m, a world-record fee for a goalkeeper.

But what should Chelsea fans know about their potential new goalkeeper? We’ve picked out four things…

1. He nearly joined Real Madrid in January

TOPSHOT – Real Madrid’s French coach Zinedine Zidane looks on after a press conference to announce his resignation in Madrid on May 31, 2018. – Real Madrid coach Zinedine Zidane said today he was leaving the Spanish giants, just days after winning the Champions League for the third year in a row. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP) (Photo credit should read PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)

The Guardian also report that Kepa was so close to joining the European champions that he even completed a medical at the Bernabeu.

Perhaps worryingly for Chelsea, that deal was only reportedly set to be worth £17.9m; the inflated new valuation is due to Bilbao subsequently tying him down to new bumper terms which run until 2025.

The only reason he is not a Real player now is because Zinedine Zidane was wary of disrupting the rhythm of the team midway through the season.

2. Sarri has been a fan for a year

LONDON, ENGLAND – AUGUST 07: Maurizio Sarri, Manager of Chelsea reacts during the pre-season friendly match between Chelsea and Lyon at Stamford Bridge on August 7, 2018 in London, England. (Photo by Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC via Getty Images)

Speaking after seeing off Lyon on penalties in the final game of pre-season, Maurizio Sarri was quoted as saying of Kepa; “I saw him one year ago. My first impression was that he is a very good goalkeeper, very young, but very, very good.”

Those quotes should hearten Blues fans that this record swoop is not a knee-jerk reaction; Sarri is getting a goalkeeper he has liked for a long time.

The belated appointment of Sarri has made it tough for the former Napoli boss to identify and procure his own targets, but Kepa certainly looks to be one.

3. He has played for Spain at every level

Spain’s goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga warms up before the Russia 2018 World Cup Group B football match between Spain and Morocco at the Kaliningrad Stadium in Kaliningrad on June 25, 2018. (Photo by OZAN KOSE / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE – NO MOBILE PUSH ALERTS/DOWNLOADS (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

Kepa represented his country at Under 18, Under 19 and Under 21 level, before making his senior debut last year; in a 5-0 win over Costa Rica.

He was included in La Roja’s squad for this summer’s World Cup out in Russia, six years after a hugely impressive performance at the Under 19 European Championships.

He saved two penalties in the semi-final shootout win over France and was his side’s stand-out performer as they scooped the trophy.

4. Agility is his greatest strength

Spain’s goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga attends a training session at Krasnodar Academy on June 21, 2018, during the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. (Photo by PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU / AFP) (Photo credit should read PIERRE-PHILIPPE MARCOU/AFP/Getty Images)

Kepa is a tall, commanding goalkeeper, adept with his feet. But his agility is his greatest attribute, which allows him to make sharp reaction saves and move rapidly.

WhoScored also note penalty saving as one of his strengths. He saved two of the three spot-kicks he faced in La Liga last season; Courtois failed to save any of the four Chelsea conceded.

He is a reliable presence, hardly making any mistakes in the two years he has been first-choice at Bilbao.



Sam Preston a senior football writer for the Boot Room and United in Focus. He is an NCTJ gold standard news and sports journalist with five years of professional experience writing digital content. He studied with the Press Association and also has a 2:1 Law with French Law degree from the University of Birmingham, which included a year studying at Bordeaux Montaigne University. He is an FA Level 1 football coach who appeared on the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire show in 2018 and has also written digital football content and match-day programme pieces for Burnley, Colchester United, Mansfield Town and Stockport County.