August 7, 2018 / 10:16 PM / 3 months ago

Soccer: Sarri hails Bilbao keeper Kepa amid Chelsea switch talk

LONDON (Reuters) - Chelsea coach Maurizio Sarri has praised Athletic Bilbao’s Kepa Arrizabalaga amid media reports that the Premier League club have decided to sign the Spain goalkeeper for a world record 71 million pounds ($91.85 million).

Football Soccer - Spain training session - World Cup 2018 Qualifiers - El Molinon stadium, Gijon, Spain, 23/03/17 Spain's goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga attends training session. REUTERS/Eloy Alonso

With Chelsea’s Belgium keeper Thibaut Courtois absent from training on Monday and Tuesday in an apparent attempt to force a move to Real Madrid, Chelsea have been heavily linked to Bilbao’s 23-year-old stopper as a potential replacement.

“I don’t know (if Courtois will leave), I want to speak with my club and then together we will decide,” Italian coach Sarri told reporters on Tuesday after Chelsea drew 0-0 with Olympique Lyonnais in a pre-season friendly at Stamford Bridge.

“I saw (Kepa) one year ago, my first impression was that he is a very good goalkeeper, very young but very good.”

Spanish and English media reported that Arrizabalaga will fly from Madrid to London on Wednesday to complete his move, with the Blues paying his buy-out clause as Athletic are unwilling to strike a deal.

Should the Spanish international move for the transfer fee being reported, he would become the world’s most expensive keeper ahead of Liverpool’s Brazil’s Alisson, who cost 65 million pounds from AS Roma last month.

Reporting by Rik Sharma; Editing by Ken Ferris

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