Chelsea are to pay a world record £72million fee for Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga after agreeing to meet his buy-out clause.
The 23-year-old Spaniard was pictured at Madrid airport on Tuesday evening as he flew to London to seal the move that will trigger the departure of Thibaut Courtois to Real Madrid.
The deal for Kepa outstrips the £66.8m paid by Liverpool for Alisson last month. The Brazilian was Chelsea’s first choice to replace Courtois, but he was keen to work with Jurgen Klopp.
Courtois has angered Chelsea by staying away from training in recent days in a bid to push through his move to the European champions, who are expected to offer around £35m for the Belgian while allowing midfielder Mateo Kovacic to join Chelsea on loan.
Chelsea focused attention on Kepa with time running out in the window and concerns over their other options. Sevilla’s Sergio Rico and Stoke’s Jack Butland, while both considerably cheaper, had been more inconsistent.
Kepa almost joined Madrid himself in January only for the deal to fall through with his price at £17.5m. Serie A side Napoli, then under the guidance of Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri, also expressed an interest.
Madrid instead decided to keep the door ajar for Courtois after he showed a willingness to join them. As a consequence, Kepa was rewarded with a new £60,000-a-week contract at Athletic but saw his buyout clause rise to £72m.
Though young and relatively raw, 6ft 3in Kepa is regarded as one of the best prospects to emerge from Spain and was named in his country’s World Cup squad.
He trained with Athletic Bilbao on Tuesday morning before getting the all-clear to travel to Madrid. His fee is to be paid officially at 10am this morning and signed off by Chelsea lawyers at La Liga HQ. He is then expected in London to sign a five-year contract worth £5m a year after tax and be in contention to make his Premier League debut away at Huddersfield Town on Saturday.