By 90Min
February 19, 2019

Kepa Arrizabalaga. He's the man whose name – rolled out with all the Spanish inflections you could ever wish for – you'd love to touch. But you can't touch! And he can't touch! The ball! When it squirms under him and Paul Pogba wheels away to celebrate and Chelsea go out of the FA Cup! 

The thrust of that – admittedly weak – opening is that Chelsea's record signing, the €80m goalKepa (it works better in a Geordie accent, shut up), is struggling. 

Eyebrows were raised at the start of the month when an Ilkay Gundogan rangefinder snuck under a left hand which went too late, too weak. Those eyebrows shot straight up through the hairline on Monday night, carving twin furrows in fringes as they went, when he pulled an anti-Gordon Banks and gently patted Pogba's header into the ground, barely slowing its momentum on its way into the back of the net. 

For any goalkeeper, it's a bad look. For a Chelsea goalkeeper, it's a very bad look. For a Chelsea goalkeeper who replaced the excellent Thibaut Courtois, who the club broke their all-time transfer record for, who has been hyped up in Spain as a man who could push David de Gea out of the national team...eyebrows. Eyebrows all over the place. Eyebrows flying in random directions, sticking to passing cars, littering the streets. Eyebrows. 

Glue those bushy forehead caterpillars back on though, because Kepa is still going to be absolutely fine, and Chelsea haven't wasted their money. Probably. Let's dive in. 

For clubs looking for top level talent – genuine top level talent – goalkeeper is a position unlike any other. A keeper is an investment in a way that buying a good midfielder isn't. This is the man you want to play 40+ games a season, every season, without replacement. Apart from contract renewals, you're basically going 'plug and play' for the next decade without having to think about it. That's brilliant

That's why, when Chelsea were strong-armed into letting Thibaut Courtois jet off to Madrid in the summer, they went young. They went for a keeper who wasn't, and still isn't, the finished product. They went for the 23-year-old from Athletic who had solid fundamentals, a great frame and, most importantly, an incredibly calm head on his shoulders. 

Very few 23-year-old goalkeepers come out fully formed, or as well-rounded as the Basque native. Players who know nothing but La Liga are rarely so safe under the high ball, while also having smart positioning and good reflexes. 

But being basically a solid, 7/10 goalkeeper isn't why Chelsea invested €80m in Kepa. Because that would be mad. Kepa wasn't bought for €80m because he's worth even half of that with his performances in the here and now – hell, Wojciech Szczesny is probably a better goalkeeper right now and he cost Juve €12m – but because of what he might become. 

In the current market, the most valuable commodity isn't past performance, it's potential. Chelsea didn't spend €80m on Kepa because he's worth that now, they spent €80m on him because in two or three years, he could be worth €150m. They spent it because the value of having someone who might be one of the league's best goalkeepers from 2021 until 2028, in his prime, is immeasurable. 

Look at the market, at the other goalkeepers under the age of 25. Gianluigi Donnarumma is a freak, but would've cost far more than Kepa. Alex Meret is good, but not as good as the Spaniard – and nor are Jordan Pickford, André Onana, Thomas Strakosha or...erm, Pau Lopez? Jan Oblak would've been ideal, but leaving Champions League hopefuls Atleti for the rough and tumble of the Europa League with Chelsea? Why? It didn't appeal, and everyone knew it. 

So, Kepa it was. And Kepa it will be, because he's a good, young goalkeeper who'll get better. Much better. It's been hard not to say 'David de Gea' at any point because they're not the same goalkeeper (De Gea last came for a cross some time in the Stone Age), but there's a reason some Spanish fans have been calling for the Chelsea stopper to replace the United man in the national team. They're wrong, but the fact the call is there says something. 

Kepa Arrizabalaga. His name sounds good in your ear, but when you say it, you mustn't fear...because his name can be said by anyone. 

Well, anyone except TV pundits. And radio commentators. And fans. Just allow the Simpsons line and let me sign off in peace. 

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