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Chelsea set to sign £71.6m goalkeeper and Real Madrid midfielder

Chelsea have agreed a deal with Athletic Bilbao to pay a world record fee of £71.6 million for goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The Spaniard will be drafted into the Blues team as a direct replacement for Thibaut Courtois, who is expected to complete his £35m move to Real Madrid after boycotting his return to the club to train.

With Courtois’ imminent exit, the Blues clearly need a replacement, and despite being linked with many stoppers such as Jack Butland, Jordan Pickford, Jan Oblak and even Alisson before he made his move to Anfield, it seems that Kepa is the chosen one.

The deal will make the Spaniard the most expensive goalkeeper of all time, beating Liverpool’s £67m deal for Alisson just last month. It will also smash Chelsea’s previous transfer record that had stood at £57m for striker Alvaro Morata.

Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri would not be drawn on the future of the departing Courtois, but admitted he believes Kepa is ‘very good’.

Asked if Courtois will now join Real, Sarri said: “I don’t know. But I think I am here just to talk about this match and the first question was about Courtois. I don’t know at this moment. I want to speak with my club. Then, all together, we’ll decide about it.”

On Kepa, Sarri said: “I saw him one year ago [when I was at] Naples and my first impression was he was a very good goalkeeper. Very young, but very, very good.”

Kepa is a relatively unknown player in England, but he was a target of Real Madrid’s last season, almost moving to Los Blancos for just £18m in January, only for the deal to be blocked by former manager Zinedine Zidane.

The Blues are also said to be close to completing a deal for Real Madrid midfielder Matteo Kovacic, who will sign on loan.

It will serve as a big gamble to spend so much on an unproven Kepa, but maybe it is a risk worth taking.

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