Chelsea are resigned to losing Thibaut Courtois and have chosen his replacement: Kepa Arrizabalaga. AS understands that the West London club are ready to trigger the Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper's 80-million-euro release clause, in a deal that the Blues would face a race against time to get over the line before the Premier League transfer window closes on Thursday at 18:00 CEST.
The next step is to persuade Kepa, who is attracted by the prospect of playing in the Premier League but has only just renewed his Athletic contract, having penned fresh terms running until 2025 in January. However, Chelsea would be in a position to offer him an improvement on his current after-tax salary of around four million euros, and would hand the Spain cap a key role in Maurizio Sarri's new team.
Kepa signing would finally free up Courtois to join Real
Having himself come close to joining Real Madrid in last season's winter window, Kepa's arrival at Stamford Bridge would, by a curious turn of fate, now leave the way clear for Courtois to sign for Los Blancos, with Chelsea adamant that a replacement for the Belgian must be found before he can complete his long-anticipated, 35-million-euro switch to the Spanish capital club.
Real could also wait until 2019 to take Courtois on free
Should Chelsea finally fail to bring in another keeper, though, Real are also not ruling out the alternative plan of signing Courtois on a free next summer. For that reason, the powers-that-be at the Bernabéu are relaxed about the situation: they won't be sucked into paying over the odds for a player who is out of contract in a year's time. Particularly as they already have four keepers (Keylor Navas, Kiko Casilla, Andriy Lunin and Luca Zidane) on their books.
Courtois, meanwhile, appears less willing to wait another 12 months. According to The Telegraph, the custodian did not report for pre-season training on Monday as scheduled, and is still in Belgium awaiting further developments. On Sunday, Sarri had said that he would speak to the player, but the 26-year-old's decision is final: he only wants to play for Real Madrid. In the face of his determination to leave, the Blues have stepped up their pursuit of a replacement, and Kepa is the target.
Athletic, who are as yet still to receive any official indication of Chelsea's interest, are not expected to sell for anything less than Kepa's buy-out figure.
Atlético goalkeeper Oblak also an option
The other option being considered by Chelsea is Atlético Madrid's Jan Oblak, whose release clause is currently 100 million euros. However, Los Rojiblancos are determined to keep hold of the Slovenian and, in recent days, have intensified their efforts to tie him down to a new contract. Atleti are confident that the keeper will be swayed by the ambition being shown by the club, while Chelsea are well aware that they face a tough task prising Oblak from the Wanda Metropolitano in the short time left before the transfer window closes.