Kepa Arrizabalaga Potential Return to Chelsea in the Summer?
After learning during the summer that Thibaut Courtois might have suffered an ACL injury that would finish his season, Real Madrid moved swiftly to get Kepa away from Stamford Bridge for the current campaign.
In Carlo Ancelotti’s absence, the 29-year-old, who is still the most expensive goalkeeper in the world, started three straight Champions League games and ten consecutive La Liga games to quickly establish himself as the starting goalie for the Italian coach.
But Kepa has battled to regain his spot in Andriy Lunin’s squad since missing the most of November due to an adductor injury, sitting on the bench for games against Granada, Real Betis, and Villarreal.
On December 21, Kepa finally benched Lunin against Alaves, maintaining his seventh clean sheet in 15 games as Real Madrid prevailed 1-0. Kepa has been open about his desire to stay with Los Blancos.
The former Athletic Bilbao player’s chances of permanently switching from Chelsea to Real Madrid appear to be in trouble, as his contract does not contain an option or obligation to buy.
Prior to returning home, Kepa was considered by Bayern Munich as a backup for the injured Manuel Neuer, while Real Madrid was more interested in signing Bono from Sevilla.
The Morocco international’s scheduled participation in the African Cup of Nations, however, prevented a move for Bono from happening, and he ultimately joined the flood of Saudi Pro League players with Al-Hilal.
Kepa was not as high on Real Madrid’s list of targets for goalkeeping as Bono was, and his lacklustre performance in the air will also hurt his chances of signing a long-term contract with the team.
Lunin still has an 18-month contract with Real Madrid, but he would fall back to second choice after Courtois returns, which would not be until the beginning of the 2024–25 season.
Kepa may thus be compelled to make an unwelcome return to Chelsea, where he has a contract through 2025 and has preserved 59 clean sheets in 163 games since signing for a record-breaking £72 million in 2018.
During the 2022–23 season, the Spain international succeeded in regaining possession of the gloves from Edouard Mendy. As a result, the Senegalese goalkeeper decided to join Al-Ahli in the Middle East. However, Chelsea later strengthened their goalkeeping unit by acquiring Robert Sanchez and Dorde Petrovic.
With a knee injury keeping Sanchez out of action for the time being, Petrovic has established himself as a capable backup. He has won four of his first five starts and made a vital save against Matt Ritchie during the Blues’ quarter final EFL Cup victory against Newcastle United.
In addition, Chelsea will have Gabriel Slonina returning from his loan at Eupen the following year, while Mauricio Pochettino presently has Marcus Bettinelli and Lucas Bergstrom at his disposal.