Five things you didn't know about Chelsea's world-record goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga

Aditya Devavrat 18:15 10/08/2018
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Kepa Arrizabalaga has signed for Chelsea

Chelsea have broken the record transfer fee for a goalkeeper to bring Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao, forking out £71million to replace Thibaut Courtois.

The eye-popping figure underlines the young shot-stopper’s talent, with Kepa long being considered one of the best No1s in the world.

Here are five things you may not have known about the world’s most expensive netminder.

Champion of Europe

Arrizabalaga first burst onto the global stage at the U19 European Championships in 2012.

The same year the senior Spain squad won Euro 2012, the U19 side was giving everyone hope for the future with a triumph of their own.

Arrizabalaga started in goal for that side, alongside players like Suso, Paco Alcacer and Gerard Deulofeu, and starred in the semi-final against France, saving spot-kicks from Samuel Umtiti and Geoffrey Kondogbia in Spain’s dramatic penalty shootout win.

Stamp of approval

Though Zinedine Zidane advocated against his transfer to Real Madrid in January, Arrizabalaga comes with the backing of some well-renowned managers. It was Marcelo Bielsa who brought him into the Athletic Bilbao first team, and though he didn’t make an appearance under the Argentine, that was nonetheless quite the show of faith.

Current Barcelona manager Ernesto Valverde gave him his debut, when the former was at Bilbao, and current Madrid manager Julen Lopetegui handed Arrizabalaga his first senior international cap, in a friendly last November.

Rejecting Madrid

Zidane may have convinced his club to pull out of a deal for the young goalkeeper, but the decision was seemingly mutual.

Reportedly, after passing a medical ahead of the move, Arrizabalaga himself rejected the transfer, preferring to stay at his boyhood club. He instantly signed a seven-year deal with a release clause that has now seen Athletic bag a record transfer fee for a goalkeeper.

While leaving his hometown club just six months after a signing a long-term contract may leave him open to accusations of disloyalty, deciding against a move to one of Spain’s biggest clubs and agreeing a contract with a release clause that inherently heaped the pressure on him showed his mental fortitude.

Sarri finally gets his man

Speaking of managers rating Arrizabalaga highly, the goalkeeper is going to play for a manager who’s already tried to sign him before.

Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri revealed this week that he was looking at a move for the young Spaniard last year, while in charge of Napoli, and thus he’s well aware of the 21-year-old’s talent.

For his part, Arrizabalaga says Sarri’s style of football should suit him, as he enjoys building play from the back – though he’s prone to taking a few risks with the ball at his feet, which can be costly.

Kepa’s birds fly high

Though the young goalkeeper took to football early on in his childhood, he balanced his interest in the sport with another passion: birds.

Kepa and his father used to train goldfinches to sing, and three of the youngster’s birds have even won singing competitions.

One of his pets was named Raikkonen, presumably after former Formula One world champion and current Ferrari driver Kimi.

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