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Monday 17 December 2018

Blues break the bank

Chelsea set record for keeper with €80m deal for Kepa as Courtois' exit looms

RECORD FEE: Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in action for Spain. Photo: REUTERS
RECORD FEE: Goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga in action for Spain. Photo: REUTERS

Kepa Arrizabalaga's €80 million (£71m) buy-out clause has been met, Athletic Bilbao have announced, as the goalkeeper appears to now be on the verge of a world record move to Chelsea.

The Basque club confirmed that te 23-year-old's release clause has been activated and his contract terminated, although there is no mention of Chelsea.

The fee is a world record for a goalkeeper, surpassing the £65m paid by Liverpool to Roma for the Brazilian goalkeeper Alisson Becker just last month.

The Blues have reportedly made Kepa their number one target to replace wantaway Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

A statement on Athletic's official website read: "On Wednesday, August 8, 2018 at 1202 hours (CET), the Professional Football League confirmed to us that the player, Kepa Arrizabalaga, has met the requirements for the valid unilateral termination of the work contract that linked him to Athletic Club.

Thanks

"The amount of the compensation established in the contract has been deposited.

"Athletic thanks the player for his contribution during the time he has remained in our club."

Courtois has been absent from training this week ahead of today's closure of the transfer window for Premier League clubs.

The 26-year-old, who was named the best goalkeeper at the World Cup as Belgium finished third, has one year remaining on his contract and reportedly wishes to join Real Madrid.

Courtois spent three years on loan at Atletico Madrid from Chelsea, before becoming the Blues' number one in 2014-15.

MISSING IN ACTION: Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has failed to show up for squad training. Photo: PA
MISSING IN ACTION: Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has failed to show up for squad training. Photo: PA

Real head coach Julen Lopetegui refused to comment on Courtois after his side's friendly win over Roma in New Jersey, insisting that Keylor Navas remains his number one.

The former Spainish national coach said in quotes on Real Madrid's official website: "I always say that I'm not talking about players who are not at Real Madrid.

"Keylor is our goalkeeper and there are no other goalkeepers I can talk about except Keylor, Kiko (Casilla), (Andriy) Lunin and Luca (Zidane).

Confidence

"Keylor is phenomenal, he has our full confidence and is an extraordinary goalkeeper. He's delighted to belong to Real Madrid and we're delighted with him."

Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic has been linked with a move in the opposite direction.

Lopetegui added: "It's true that Mateo has expressed his desire to leave. I've expressed my desire for him to stay. If he leaves, we'll see how we organise things.

"The solution that we'd look for at the right time would be a player at Kovacic's level, someone who is a top-level footballer.

"To compete all the objectives we've got, we need a balanced squad."

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri declined to discuss Courtois or Kepa after his side's final pre-season friendly on Tuesday night, against Lyon at Stamford Bridge.

The new Blues manager described Kepa as "very young, but very, very good", but did not comment on the club's pursuit of the player.

English clubs have until 5pm today to push through deals before the transfer window closes.

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