Blues' target Kepa pays release fee

Kepa Arrizabalaga has paid his 80-million euro (US$92.8 million) buyout clause to break his contract with the Spanish side ahead of a reported move to Chelsea.

Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has paid his 80-million euro (US$92.8 million) buyout clause to break his contract with the Spanish side ahead of a reported move to Chelsea.

The 23-year-old was expected to sign for the English Premier League side later yesterday, with current goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois poised to move to Real Madrid.

“La Liga has confirmed to us that Kepa Arrizabalaga has fulfilled the requirements for the unilateral termination of his contract with Athletic Club,” Bilbao said in a statement.

“(He has ended) the relationship that linked him to us since the 2004-05 season and the amount of compensation established in the contract has been deposited.”

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 passes the money onto the selling club.

At 80 million euros, Kepa will become the most expensive goalkeeper in football history, ahead of Liverpool’s Alisson Becker, who moved from AS Roma for 75 million euros earlier in the transfer window.

Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri praised Kepa on Tuesday night.

“I saw (Kepa) one year ago, my first impression was that he is a very good goalkeeper, very young but very good,” said the Italian coach after his team drew 0-0 with Lyon in a friendly at London’s Stamford Bridge.

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 euros, with Athletic in January to end speculation linking him with a move to Real.

The European champion is instead on the verge of completing a reported 35-million-euro 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.

Elsewhere, Bournemouth has signed Colombian international midfielder Jefferson Lerma from Spanish side Levante for a club-record fee, the EPL outfit said on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old has signed a five-year deal for a reported 25 million pounds (US$32.3 million).

Lerma, who played all four of Colombia’s matches at the World Cup in Russia, including the last-16 loss to England, scored three goals in 93 appearances in all competitions over three seasons for Levante.

Also, newly-promoted EPL side Fulham has signed Arsenal defender Calum Chambers on a season-long loan, the west London club announced on Tuesday.

The 23-year-old, who signed a new long-term deal with Arsenal last month, joins Fulham just four days before its season-opener at home against Crystal Palace.

Chambers is likely to resume his former England Under-21 partnership with Alfie Mawson in the heart of defense, after the 24-year-old signed from Swansea last week.

Serbia striker Aleksandr Mitrovic, goalkeeper Fabri, German World Cup-winner Andre Schurrle and former Nice midfielder Jean-Michael Seri have all also joined Fulham in the close season.

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