Thibaut Courtois’ dream of joining Real Madrid has taken a step closer to becoming reality after Chelsea lodged a world-record bid for his replacement.
Athletic Bilbao have confirmed that the £71million buyout clause in the contract of goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has been met, as he closes on his move to Chelsea.
The 23-year-old is on the verge of becoming the most expensive keeper of all time, by moving to Stamford Bridge.
The Basque side have confirmed that his release clause has been activated – after money was deposited with the Spanish Football Federation (LFP) on Wednesday morning – and his contract has subsequently been terminated.
Kepa, who was Spain’s third choice goalkeeper at the World Cup – has emerged as the club’s No.1 target to replace Thibaut Courtois, who is set to return to the Spanish capital with Real Madrid.
The Belgian international has been absent from training this week and is set to move to Los Blancos on a six-year deal, in a £35million move.
Athletic confirmed: “On Wednesday August 8, 2018, at 12:02 hours, the Professional Football League has certified to our entity 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 aforementioned certification indicates that the player has expressed his desire to terminate and unilaterally resolve the relationship that joined him since the 2004/05 season and that 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.”
Kepa’s deal will see the world transfer record for a goalkeeper smashed by a Premier League club for the third time in 12 months, following Manchester City’s signing of Ederson and Liverpool’s purchase of Alisson.
The record had previously stood for 16 years, after Gianluigi Buffon’s 2001 switch from Parma to Juventus.
Blues boss Maurizio Sarri was remaining tight-lipped over the Spanish stopper after Chelsea’s meeting with Lyon on Tuesday night.
But when pressed on Kepa, the Italian stated: “I saw him one year ago. My first impression was that he is a very good goalkeeper, very young, but very, very good.”
It’s understood that Sarri has been watching numerous videos of the Basque keeper after being pointed his way by his former Napoli No.1 Pepe Reina.