Thursday 19 September 2019

Chelsea agree world record fee to sign Spanish goalkeeper ahead of likely Courtois departure

Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has yet to resolve his future ahead of the new Premier League campaign. (Peter Byrne/PA)
Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois has yet to resolve his future ahead of the new Premier League campaign. (Peter Byrne/PA)

Matt Law

Chelsea have agreed to pay a world record £71 million to replace Thibaut Courtois with Athletic Bilbao's goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

With Courtois trying to force a move to Real Madrid by going AWOL, Chelsea have taken drastic action by paying Kepa’s Athletic Bilbao buy-out clause ahead of Thursday’s Premier League transfer deadline.

The deal, which has been greeted by widespread astonishment, will also shatter Chelsea’s record that had stood at £57m for striker Alvaro Morata, who joined from Real last summer.

The path of Courtois to Real could be further smoothed by Real’s offer to send midfielder Mateo Kovacic on a season-long loan to Chelsea.

Along with Kepa, Kovacic is expected in London to complete a pre-deadline switch to Chelsea in what constitutes a frantic end to the transfer window.

Chelsea had budgeted for trying to sign a midfielder and a new goalkeeper in the remaining days of the transfer window, so the chance to get Kovacic without paying a fee appears to have freed cash to spend on Kepa.

Stoke City’s Jack Butland and Sevilla’s Sergio Rico, both of whom would have been considerably cheaper, had been on Chelsea’s radar but a move for Kepa gathered pace on Tuesday afternoon.

With Chelsea indicating a willingness to meet his buy-out clause, 23-year-old Kepa boarded a flight to Madrid in preparation to then travel to England to complete his transfer. Spanish sources claim, barring any unexpected hitches, he will make the journey to London at around 10am on Wednesday morning.

The deal would eclipse the £66.8m Liverpool paid Roma to make Alisson Becker the world’s most expensive goalkeeper in July. The Brazilian had been Chelsea’s first-choice target to replace Courtois, but, at that time with other targets still to land, the Blues were unwilling to enter an auction.

But with time running out to replace Courtois, Chelsea were not in a strong bargaining position and had to move quickly and decisively to make sure they do not go into the new season without a top-class replacement.

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