Chelsea have agreed to pay a world record £71 million to replace Thibaut Courtois with Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.
With Courtois trying to force a move to Real Madrid by going AWOL, Chelsea have taken a drastic action by paying Kepa’s Athletic Bilbao buy-out clause ahead of Thursday’s Premier League transfer deadline.
The world record transfer fee set by Buffon in the year 2001 was broken only this summer by Liverpool, who signed Roma custodian Alisson for £66.8 million.
But Kepa’s fee tops that figure by 7%, and Buffon’s fee by over 40% (~20% on inflation-adjusted figures).
Chelsea had also considered signing Jack Butland and Sergio Rico. But Kepa is clearly the best keeper of the trio, and this signing is indicative of a successful summer transfer window for the Blues – Kovacic is another La Liga player scheduled to arrive at the club (on loan, however).
Kepa almost moved to Real for only £18m in January. That deal, however, fell through due to Zinedine Zidane’s influence. This gave Bilbao the opportunity to hand the Spaniard a new contract that included this steep release clause.
Kepa has so far only been capped once by the Spanish national team. In the past, an unproven David De Gea also took some time to get used to the more physical style required of keepers in the Premier League, in contrast to the more technical La Liga.
The Blues are out of the Champions League again this season, having fought their way back in last season after winning the title under Conte. Sarri will hope that an influx of new faces with world-class talent will raise their performance levels this time around.