Real Madrid look set to sign 23-year-old goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao in January. The young shot stopper’s contract with Bilbao runs out in the summer, which is likely to force a move to Los Blancos in a deal estimated to be worth £20m.
The acquisition of the goalkeeper seemingly suggests that Real Madrid have given up their pursuit of long term target David De Gea from Manchester United. Arrizabalaga will now compete with Keylor Navas and Kiko Casilla for the number one spot in Madrid.
But just who is this up and coming ‘keeper? Here’s all the things Madrid fans should know about their latest potential recruit.
5. The Next Great Basque Goalkeeper?
Hailing from the fiercely proud Basque region, Kepa Arrizabagala could follow in the footsteps of Spain’s last great goalkeeper from that area – Luis Arconada.
Arconada played for nearly 20 years during the 1970s and ’80s both as a Spain international and for Real Sociedad. The goalkeeper won two La Liga titles with his club and 68 caps for Spain where he represented his country at two World Cups and two European Championships.
Arconada is also an admirer of Arrizabagala himself. Could he achieve the same success for club and country as Arconada?
4. Already Hit With Injury Problems
While still only 23, Arrizabalaga has already had his fair share of injury problems. Over the past year alone, the young goalkeeper has suffered four bouts of injury which has forced him to miss 18 matches for Athletic Bilbao.
Right now, Arrizabalaga is recovering from a metatarsal injury which has kept him out for a month. Hopefully, Madrid will have the facilities required to keep the youngster fit and continue to develop him into a top goalkeeper.
3. He Was Given His Chance By Ernesto Valverde
It was the current manager of Real Madrid’s biggest rivals Barcelona who first saw something in Kepa Arrizabalaga. Ernesto Valverde was the manager at Athletic Bilbao before his move to Catalonia.
Last season, Valverde promoted the youngster to the first team where he would rotate with Bilbao regular Gorka Iraizoz. From this season, Arrizabalaga impressive performances have firmly cemented him at Bilbao’s first choice in goal.
2. Admirers From Various Big European Clubs
Real Madrid are not the only club to have been monitoring Arrizabalaga’s performances and situation at Bilbao. Arsenal are reportedly keen to bring in a young goalkeeper to eventually take over from the ageing Petr Cech.
Los Blancos’ local rivals Atletico Madrid are also keen on the goalkeeper. If Atletico lose their number one shot stopper Jan Oblak in the summer, Arrizabalaga is first choice to replace him.
However, it is Real Madrid remain in pole position and it is difficult to see any other club complete for Arrizabalaga at this late stage.
1. Time Is On His Side
Real Madrid would always find it difficult to find another goalkeeper of David De Gea’s quality, after repeatedly missing out on the Spanish shot stopper for years now. But at just 23-years-old, Kepa has the best possible chance of reaching the same sort of levels of his fellow countryman.
Arrizabalaga has been described as an all-rounder. He has strong reflexes, looks comfortable in the air and with using the ball at his feet. And at 6’2”, he would command a greater physical presence than Madrid’s current first choice Keylor Navas.
Despite his lack of match experience, time is certainly on Kepa’s side. He has already received a national team call-up, and a move to a big clubs seems to be around the corner. At Madrid, he could flourish to be become a reliable first choice in goal for many years to come.