Real Madrid: Who is Kepa Arrizabalaga?

(Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
(Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images) /

With the January transfer window now open, many eyes will be on Real Madrid. With a less than acceptable first half of the campaign, Los Blancos are in need of reinforcements. With a whole host of targets, Florentino Perez and Zinedine Zidane will be under the microscope as they make moves. One of the names most commonly discussed is young Spanish goalkeeper, Kepa Arrizabalaga. Here we will break down the talks about the stopper and what he brings to the table.

(Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
(Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images) /

Kepa Arrizabalaga or simply known as Kepa – was born in the fishing port of Ondarroa, in the Basque country in Spain. The goalkeeper joined the youth setup of La Liga side, Athletic Bilbao, in 2004 when he was just 10 years-old.

He went on to make his senior debut for the feeder club of Bilbao, Basconia, in 2011 in the Tescara Division. In May 2012, he was an unused sub in a La Liga match against Getafe.  He was promoted to the B-Team in 2013, keeping a clean sheet in his debut match. Following regular B-Team appearances, the club loaned him out to SD Ponferreradina on a half-season loan before then being loaned out again to Racing de Santander on a full season loan.

Kepa eventually got called up to the Athletic first team in 2016. He was initially the third choice keeper behind Gorka Irazoiz and Iago Herrerin. He made his first-team debut on the 11th of September, 2016 in a 1-0 win over Deportivo La Coruna. He has been the club’s number one since.

Other highlights of his career include winning the 2013 U-20 FIFA World Cup with Spain. The keeper was the undisputed starter in the team with his main highlight being the 3-3 semifinal against France,  in which he saved 2 penalties in the shootout.

More from The Real Champs

Kepa is known for his likeness to fellow Spaniard, David De Gea. Both possess incredible reflexes, both have a tendency to use their feet, and both also have good distribution ability. Compared with current Real Madrid number one, Keylor Navas, Kepa makes more passes per 90 minutes with 29.5 while Navas is currently riding on a figure of 20.3 passes per 90.

Alongside that, Kepa completes 11.2 long balls per game which trumps the figure of Navas’ 3.4 and it even beats out De Gea’s 7.6. The Bilbao stopper also boasts a better pass completed rate than De Gea with 61% over the Manchester United goalkeeper’s 56.1%. However, both fall behind Navas who holds 76%. Kepa also boasts a better clearance rate than Navas with the Spanish keeper clearing 0.7 balls a game compared to Navas’ 0.3 per game.

Kepa is being touted as the next big breakout star for Spain in terms of goalkeepers. The young prospect has been in the senior squad since the age of 21 and has already displaced Sergio Rico in the Spanish national team setup. Alongside that, he has also put in some world-class performances this season already.

When considering that this Bilbao team has largely underperformed this season, Kepa has been their standout star. The keeper has 6 clean sheets to his name this season with 4 in La Liga which is equal to Keylor Navas, considering he’s faced 187 shots to Keylor’s 97 and has saved 47 of them compared to Navas’ 32.

Whilst Kepa isn’t expected to dethrone Navas as soon as he walks through the doors, he will succeed the Costa Rican in short time.

The Spaniard is already matching and even bettering Navas in some aspects. With the rumors continuing to circulate about his arrival, Kepa is certainly a player worth signing. Signing him this window at a low €20 million is truly a bargain. Considering that he is 23 and still evolving – Kepa could very well morph into one of the world’s finest goalkeepers very soon.

Next: Real Madrid: What Zinedine Zidane had to say after the 2-2 with Celta Vigo

Stay tuned to The Real Champs for more news and analysis!