No matter how goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has played this season, Chelsea simply can’t reasonably sell him anytime soon.
This is not going to be an article about Kepa Arrizabalaga’s play so far this season. That’s not up for debate. There’s a litany of explanations for it, all of which hold some credence. More than his play, there’s a bigger issue between Chelsea FC and Arrizabalaga: his salary and his transfer fee are all a part of it.
The lack of long-term planning and preparations in scouting and recruiting for something as important as the goalkeeping change at a club of Chelsea’s size was absurd. The resultant desperation forced Chelsea into the corner they cannot now simply leave.
Thibaut Courtois never minced his words about leaving Chelsea. It is one of the things that made him such an unbelievably frustrating character. Almost within seconds of his arrival from a loan to Atletico Madrid he was already talking about how he was a better player than Chelsea deserved and he wanted to move back to Spain. He continued to complain and disrespect the club every single year, without fail, until he eventually refused to sign a contract extension, went on strike and forced the club to sell him for far less than he was worth by modern transfer standards.
What is shocking here is that Chelsea weren’t prepared for it.
Courtois spoke about it publicly. He never hid the fact that at some point he was going to leave. Yet somehow Chelsea didn’t see it coming.
They were forced to find a new starting caliber goalkeeper in a single day. That’s right! They didn’t even start at the beginning of the summer like you’re supposed to, and like clubs such as Juventus, Real Madrid, Liverpool and Barcelona do at least a season in advance.
One has to wonder if Kepa Arrizabalaga is even the player they initially wanted. If so, wouldn’t they have triggered his original release clause, which was under £40 million in January of the previous season, rather than letting him renew and secure a much higher release clause?
Chelsea were so desperate they didn’t even have time to talk with clubs about the potential prices of goalkeepers. At the 11th hour they needed someone with a release clause that was public so they could just trigger it and not talk.
To then compound that issue they gave Arrizabalaga a seven year contract worth £190,000 per week. Good job keeping him motivated by not overpaying him, guys.
They immediately made him one of the highest earners in a squad that contained Champions League, Premier League and World Cup winners, despite the fact at the time he wasn’t even Spain’s No. 1 and had never set foot on a Champions League pitch.
Then there’s the world record transfer fee. Chelsea don’t have a huge stadium and they don’t sell as many shirts as Real Madrid or Manchester United. Sure, every Premier League team makes fantastic TV money, but that’s also what makes that particular fact all that much less special.
The best way to run out of money and make yourself uncompetitive in the financial wars is to spend it as poorly as Chelsea did on Kepa Arrizabalaga. Chelsea can’t simply write off what they paid for him and what they’ve paid to him.
None of this is a commentary on his quality and none of it his fault. Of course not. He still has a lot of potential for greatness and hasn’t had a single favor done for him in two years by his defense. Remember, his security was once charged to a certain David Luiz, so relax. Arrizabalaga is a fantastic footballer and can become a wonderful goalkeeper if he simply matures on the right trajectory and gets a proper defence who do some semblance of defending in front of him
That said, Chelsea are now far too invested in the player. They backed themselves into a ridiculous corner.
Is Arrizabalaga ever going to accept a pay cut on his absurd contract? Probably not. Why would he? Is anyone else going to offer him one close to what he has at Chelsea? Nope.
Chelsea have to try and make the Kepa Arrizabalaga situation work. They’ve taken away all their other options.
Hopefully it gets sorted because the potential is there for historically fantastic results. It just would have been nice for Chelsea to give themselves an option, and for that potential to be the plan instead of an accidental silver lining.