WORTH IT? Why Kepa Arrizabalaga was set up to fail at Chelsea
The Spanish goalkeeper could be living his last days a Chelsea player, but was it his fault how things resulted?
They often say that players aren't guilty of the fees their clubs pay for them, and perhaps no case is as big a statement of that than Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga. Irregular performances, tantrums on the pitch and other controversies have mired his time with the Blues, but was it all his fault?
The story of Kepa's transfer fee and the subsecuent impact of having it hanging over his head actually starts some time before the Spaniard signed his contract with Chelsea. For the 2018-19 season, the Premier League announced that the deadline day for the transfer window would be moved from the usual 31st of August, to a week over three weeks before: August 9th.
The reasoning was simple, and smart. With the season starting the following day, the league intended to stop the "panic buys" that came after the first few weeks of competition, when clubs, based on those early results, embarked on rash buys to fix whatever issues they're facing, potentially overspending and throwing a spanner in the work of their finances. It was a smart decision, praised across the European footballing scene, with other top leagues, most notably the Bundesliga, discussing the possibilty of doing the same.
Problem was the Premier League was leading a charge that nobody else was backing. So when the time came and early August 2018 rolled around, English clubs found themselves at a pickle: they had a lot less time on the clock than their continental rivals to sign players.
The biggest benefitiary of this was Kepa Arrizabalaga's club, Athletic Bilbao. With Thibaut Courtois already having everything agreed with Real Madrid to depart, Chelsea found themselves without a starting goalkeeper. Their main target, Kepa, was coming off an impressive season, but the Blues quickly realised Athletic, while keen on the sale, were looking to stretch the deal for as long as possible, as every passing day drew Chelsea closer to their deadline, while they would still have a month to sign a replacement.
The result was Chelsea massively overpaying for Kepa, who was at the time valued at around 40 million euros, while his move cost the London club more than double that. That made him the most expensive goalkeeper in history at the time, a record he still holds. No matter what happened next, Arrizabalaga was set to dissappoint.
The young Spanish keeper was irregular in his first season, mixing spectacular saves with rookie mistakes, and his clash with Maurizio Sarri brougth the spotlight over him for all the wrong reasons.
Now, having lost his spot to Edouard Mendy and far further from the starting spot at the Spanish National Team than he was before his Chelsea move, Kepa spoke about his future: "I'm at a very big club. I'll talk to the coach and we'll decide, but the clear message is that I want to play more".
Kepa Arrizabalaga is just 27 years old and still has three years remaining in his Chelsea contract, but his future is everybit up for debate. Rumours linking him with Ligue 1 side OGC Nice and Serie A's Lazio have come up, but there has been little news. Whatever his next club is, it is unlikely he'll be under the same pressure he was at Chelsea due to such rare circumstances.
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