Madrid - Athletic Bilbao said on Wednesday that Kepa Arrizabalaga has paid his €80 million (R1.24 billion) buyout clause, paving the way for the Spain international to join Chelsea as the world's most expensive goalkeeper.
The 23-year-old is expected to replace Thibaut Courtois at Stamford
Bridge for a record fee that would surpass the €72.5 million
Liverpool paid Roma for Brazilian Alisson last month.
"At 12:02 on Wednesday, August 8, La Liga informed
our club that the player, Kepa Arrizabalaga, had met the conditions to
unilaterally break his contract that linked him to Athletic Club," the
Spanish side said in a statement.
"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."
In Spain, instead of the buying club paying the selling club the amount set by the contract, the player must buy himself out.
This is done by depositing the amount of the buyout clause with La
Liga to release the player. La Liga then pass the money onto the selling
Chelsea's move for Kepa comes with Belgium number one Courtois
strongly linked with Real Madrid, having yet to report to training with
the Premier League club following the World Cup.
Kepa has played 53 times in La Liga for Bilbao over the last two
seasons, and made his international debut in a 5-0 friendly win over
Costa Rica in November 2017.
He was also in the Spain squad for the recent World Cup in Russia as back-up to David De Gea, but did not get any playing time.
Kepa signed a new long-term contract, which increased his release
clause from €20 million, with Athletic in January to end
speculation linking him with a move to Real.
The European champions are instead on the verge of completing a
reported €35 million deal for Courtois, who was voted the best
goalkeeper at the World Cup.
Courtois, who spent three seasons at Atletico Madrid from 2011 to
2014, has repeatedly stated his desire to move closer to his two
children in the Spanish capital.
However, Real coach Julen Lopetegui refused to comment on the
speculation following his team's 2-1 victory over Roma in the final game
of their US pre-season tour on Tuesday.
"I always say that I'm not talking about players who're not at Real
Madrid," said Lopetegui. "Keylor (Navas) is our goalkeeper and there are
no other goalkeepers I can talk about except Keylor, Kiko (Casilla),
Andriy (Lunin) and Luca (Zidane).
"Keylor is phenomenal, he has our full confidence and is an
extraordinary goalkeeper. He's delighted to belong to Real Madrid and
we're delighted with him."