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
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
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
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
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.