Kepa Arrizabalaga’s £71m buyout clause has been met, Athletic Bilbao have announced, as the goalkeeper appears on the verge of a world record move to Chelsea.
The Basque club confirmed the 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 Brazil goalkeeper Alisson Becker 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.
“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 Thursday’s closure of the transfer window for Premier League clubs.
The 26-year-old, 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.
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.
Croatian midfielder Mateo Kovacic has been linked with a move in the opposite direction.
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.
Courtois is reported to have stayed away from the London club this week in an apparent attempt to force a move back to the Spanish capital, having played for Real’s city rivals Atletico from 2011-14.
The move is all the more likely to happen now that Chelsea’s would-be replacement, Athletic Bilbao stopper, Kepa has bought himself out of his contract.
But Lopetegui was tight-lipped on the saga as he addressed his goalkeeping situation after a 2-1 friendly win over Roma in New Jersey, insisting that Keylor Navas remains his number one.
The former Spain coach said in quotes on Real’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).
“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 the subject of 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.”
With the rumours growing in pace and volume during this ‘silly season’, it can be difficult and painstaking to separate the stories of some legitimacy from the rest of the noise.
Fortunately, we’ve taken it upon ourselves to do it for you.
Below, you’ll find some of the latest transfer news churned out of our rumours and analysed for your benefit along with our calculated predictions.
MICHY BATSHUAYI – CHELSEA TO SEVILLA
Sevilla are in pole position to sign the Belgian international on loan, the Daily Mail claims.
Why it will happen: The Chelsea hitman could move on from Stamford Bridge after Olivier Giroud and Alvaro Morata pledged their commitment to the Blues for the new season, which means he is unlikely to feature under Maurizio Sarri this campaign.
Why it won’t happen: Atletico Madrid and Valencia are both keen on the 24-year-old, so the former Marseille man has options available to him ahead of his next move.
Prediction: A switch to Sevilla would mean regular game time and a chance to re-ignite his career.
JACK GREALISH – ASTON VILLA TO TOTTENHAM
Aston Villa and Tottenham are £7 million apart in their valuations of the star midfielder, reports the BBC.
Why it will happen: Spurs are hoping to sign the 22-year-old before transfer deadline day, but their offer has yet to meet Villa’s asking price. A move to north London should help Grealish progress in his career under the watchful eye of Mauricio Pochettino.
Why it won’t happen: He would leave Villa with a heavy heart and may want to help the club try and get promoted to the Premier League again next season under Steve Bruce, who is likely to stay on.
Prediction: Grealish wants to take the next step in his career and ply his trade in the top division, but it all comes down to whether Villa will accept Spurs’ £25m bid.
DAVID OSPINA – ARSENAL TO BESIKTAS
Arsenal are reportedly close to offloading the Colombian goalkeeper, according to the Sun.
Why it will happen: The 31-year-old has failed to usurp Petr Cech as the Gunners No1 goalkeeper and with the arrival of Germany international Bernd Leno, his chances of regular game time will be limited.
Why it won’t happen: Napoli are also believed to be interested in securing his services and a move to the Serie A side would offer a more competitive option than Besiktas in the Turkish Super Lig.
Prediction: Leno’s arrival to the Emirates Stadium has effectively made Ospina redundant, therefore a move to Turkey represents the best option available at present.