It’s been all change on the goalkeeping front at Stamford Bridge in a hectic few days of high-level negotiation and splurging, with young Spanish international Kepa Arrizabalaga arriving from Athletic Bilbao for an eye-watering £71.6million, bolshy beanpole Thibaut Courtois being sold to Real Madrid after failing to report back for training, and ancient mariner Rob Green vying with Polish teenager Marcin Bulka for the deputy’s shirt.
Kepa’s value has soared this year as Bilbao realised what an asset they had in the 23-year-old. He has now been tied down to a seven-year contract in SW6, and is expected to make his debut up at Huddersfield at the weekend.
Courtois’ exit left an unpleasant taste, with the Belgian giant forcing a move by failing to attend a clear-the-air pow-wow with Blues manager Morrie Sarri. His £35m fee will offset half the sum forked out for the newcomer.
It comes after a dramatic week for Chelsea keepers, with 18-year-old Pole Marcin Bulka keeping a clean sheet in the pre-season tournament match against Lyon at the Bridge on Tuesday, and his replacement, 38-year-old veteran Green coming on as sub (pictured above, during a mass substitution in the 73rd minute) and making the all-important penalty save after normal time to help the Blues to victory.
There were mutterings about ‘disrespect’ when Chelsea formally made the announcement about Courtois’ departure and Kepa’s arrival right in the middle of Chelsea Women’s game against Juventus at Kingsmeadow – a choice of timing which dismayed many at the match.
Courtois, 26, was in the last year of his contract at the Bridge, having hinted that he would be unwilling to accept new terms in the hope of moving to Madrid.