Chelsea signs goalkeeper for record $91M
English Premier League clubs were scrambling Thursday to finalize their squads for the new season.
The deadline for transfers to English top flight clubs ends at 5 p.m. BST (12 p.m. EST) Thursday, with the 2018/2019 season starting on Friday.
In the rest of Europe the transfer window closes on August 31. Premier League clubs can still sell and loan players to other sides during this time. The transfer window reopens in January 1, 2019.
In a world-record transfer fee for a goalkeeper, Chelsea signed Kepa Arrizabalaga for £71.6 million ($91 million) from Spain’s Athletic Bilbao.
The 23-year-old arrives at Stamford Bridge on a seven-year deal to replace Thibaut Courtois, who is set to join Real Madrid.
Chelsea has also signed Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic, 24, on loan from Real Madrid for the upcoming season.
The Kepa transfer surpasses the $68 million Liverpool paid for Alisson in July and the $75 million Chelsea spent on striker Alvaro Morata last summer.
“It’s a very important decision for me, for my career, and also for my personal life,” said Kepa in a statement on the Chelsea website.
“So many things attracted me to the club, all the titles the club has won, the other players, the city, the English Premier League. It’s an accumulation of things, and I am very glad Chelsea has decided to trust me and to take me in as well.”
Kepa, who won his sole Spain cap last November, played 30 times for Athletic Bilbao last season, keeping seven clean sheets.
The Spanish No.2 will train with Chelsea Thursday in preparation for a potential Premier League debut against Huddersfield Saturday.
“Kepa is a talent we have admired for a long time and we are extremely excited about his arrival,” added Marina Granovskaia, director of Chelsea FC.
“He has already demonstrated fantastic quality and consistency and will be a big part of any success Chelsea have in the coming years.
“His long-term contract reflects the belief we have in him and we look ahead to the coming seasons with an enormous sense of optimism.”
Kovacic, who played five games during Croatia’s run to the World Cup final this summer, said of his arrival at Chelsea: “I am really happy and excited to be here at Chelsea. It is an amazing feeling.
“I will try to do my best for this club. It is a new league for me, the beginning is always tough but I am sure the coach and my new team mates will help me and I am looking forward to a great season.”
Meanwhile leading football agent Jon Smith believes the Premier League “jumped the gun” by closing its transfer window earlier than other European leagues.
“We tested the water with both feet and I think we are drowning a little bit,” Smith told CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies.
“If Juventus wanted to push the envelope they have got three or four hours to figure out the replacement, whereas Barcelona could wait around for the next three weeks and make their minds up.
“The emphasis and the swing of power — if you like — in the trading window has now swung to Europe this year.”