Chelsea braced for Kepa Arrizabalaga bids and open to summer exit

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Chelsea are braced for bids for Kepa Arrizabalaga this summer and are unlikely to stand in the goalkeeper’s way if they receive a suitable offer.

The Spain international has had a mixed time since leaving Athletic Bilbao for £71.6m in 2018 and his recent improvement has not been enough to dislodge Édouard Mendy as Thomas Tuchel’s first choice. Tuchel is considering whether to bring Mendy into the side when Chelsea face Palmeiras in the Club World Cup final on Saturday and Arrizabalaga, who impressed in the semi-final victory over Al-Hilal on Wednesday, could look for a fresh challenge at the end of the season.

Arrizabalaga’s form has improved since Tuchel replaced Frank Lampard last year and Chelsea believe he could be a summer target for one of the big Spanish clubs. The 27-year-old has done well when given opportunities this season and Chelsea accept he will not want to continue as their No 2 if he has a chance to play regularly elsewhere.

Chelsea have not had to deal with any offers for Arrizabalaga. He struggled under Lampard and his asking price and high wages meant that interest was minimal. However, Chelsea know that having such an expensive goalkeeper on the bench regularly is not ideal and there would be more disappointment for Arrizabalaga if he is left out against Palmeiras.

Arrizabalaga, who has made tweaks to his game under Tuchel, impressed while Mendy was representing Senegal at the Africa Cup of Nations. He helped Chelsea reach the Carabao Cup final at Tottenham’s expense last month, made two stunning saves in the second half against Al-Hilal and has become an expert at saving penalties. He has played a key role in Chelsea winning three shootouts this season and denied Ryan Hardie from the spot when Tuchel’s side knocked Plymouth out of the FA Cup last weekend.

Kepa Arrizabalaga saves a late penalty from Ryan Hardie during Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Plymouth.
Kepa Arrizabalaga saves a late penalty from Ryan Hardie during Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Plymouth. Photograph: Darren Walsh/Chelsea FC/Getty Images

Although the feeling at Chelsea is that Arrizabalaga should be Spain’s No 1 instead of Unai Simón or David de Gea, Tuchel could still drop him against Palmeiras. Mendy has joined the Chelsea squad in Abu Dhabi after winning Afcon and has emerged as one of the best goalkeepers in the world since leaving Rennes in 2020.

Chelsea have never won the Club World Cup and Tuchel could decide he does not want to leave anything to chance. If Arrizabalaga is dropped against the Copa Libertadores champions, his next chance to impress could come in the Carabao Cup final against Liverpool on 27 February.

Chelsea are yet to end the uncertainty hanging over their defence, with César Azpilicueta, Antonio Rüdiger and Andreas Christensen out of contract this summer. However, they have resumed talks with Rüdiger over a new deal and hope to reach an agreement with the centre-back, who is a target for Bayern Munich, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain.

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