Chelsea has signed Kepa Arrizabalaga on a seven-year deal from Athletic Bilbao for a world record fee believed to be around £71 million.
The 23-year-old Spanish international goalkeeper arrived ahead of the new Premier League season having signed a seven-year contract at Stamford Bridge.
He repleaces Thibaut Courtois who forced a move to Real Madrid after refusing to return to training after the World Cup with Belgium.
— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) August 8, 2018
Kepa has played over 100 career league games, has solid experience at the highest level having made more than 50 appearances in La Liga, his quality earning him a call-up to the Spain squad for this summer’s World Cup in Russia.
Upon completing his move to Chelsea, he said: “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.’
Director Marina Granovskaia added: ‘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.’
Quick and agile, Kepa possesses fantastic reflexes and has developed his all-round game since establishing himself as Athletic Bilbao’s first-choice ‘keeper two years ago. A great shot-stopper, he is confident with the ball at his feet and capable of playing out from the back, even under pressure.
Born in Ondarroa, a Basque seaside town, Kepa joined the Athletic academy at the age of nine and after gaining experience at their fourth-tier feeder club Basconia, he appeared regularly for Bilbao’s B-team, earning international recognition at youth level due to the quality of his displays.
Kepa was loaned to SD Ponferradina, a Spanish second division side, in January 2015 and having made his debut against Racing Santander, he started on a regular basis, keeping seven clean sheets in the process as the team missed out on the play-offs by just one point. He established himself in another second tier loan move with Real Valladolid the next season, before returning to Bilbao for the 2016/17 campaign.
Although not initially viewed as number one, he made his first appearance in an away game at Deportivo La Coruna, keeping a clean sheet in a 1-0 win. He went on to make over 20 appearances throughout a season which ended with him representing Spain at the European Under-21 Championship.
Last season, Kepa’s consistently impressive displays earned him regular plaudits inside and outside the club. He saved two of the three penalties he faced, as well as making the third-highest number of saves in the Spanish top flight and successfully executing more long-range passes – 368 – than any other goalkeeper in La Liga.
His impressive form at club level led to a debut for the senior Spain side, which came in a 5-0 win over Costa Rica last November. He was duly named in the 23-man squad for the World Cup in Russia this summer.
He becomes the sixth Spaniard in the Blues squad, joining Cesar Azpilicueta, Marcos Alonso, Cesc Fabregas, Pedro and Morata.
Kepa, who is eligible to play in Saturday’s Premier League opener against Huddersfield, will train with his new team-mates for the first time tomorrow.