Kepa, another De Gea case?


Madrid have left more than one player in the lurch after getting into complicated negotiations for them that, in the end, have gone nowhere

Ever since Iker Casillas left Real Madrid a couple of seasons ago, the club have been searching for a goalkeeper that they would consider as ‘world class’. That is to say, one who is internationally recognised, is good-looking, arouses interest among the fans and who even comes out in the gossip columns.

One of the Madrid chairman’s weaknesses has long been David de Gea, despite the goalkeeper’s ‘colchonero‘ past. The Manchester United goalkeeper was on the point of signing in the summer of 2015 but the English club’s accursed fax malfunctioned, or did not function in time, or someone forgot which button to press and the end result was that he had to stay at Old Trafford against his wishes, at the orders of Van Gaal. The months leading up to that unexpected dénouement were an absolute media soap opera.

Real Madrid often employ the media as a loudspeaker in order to then gauge the level of acceptance or rejection on the part of the fans. It is a kind of Machiavellian game that, at times, has unexpected consequences. That summer, the club had reached an agreement with the player, who had even gone so far as to sell his house in Manchester, and it was only a question of convincing the Old Trafford club. Van Gaal, though, stuck his nose in, and the whole deal went pear-shaped.

De Gea had to sign a new deal with United and put Madrid on hold for the next few years. Madrid, meanwhile, forgot about the ‘keeper, who in private said that he had felt very alone and had been left at the mercy of the English club. In this story, there are already parallels with the emerging Kepa Arrizabalaga soap opera. The Athletic goalkeeper has shown himself to be a great promise for the future -with the Donnarumma case now forgotten as well- and Madrid have cast their net over him.

Kepa’s current contract is up on June 30th this year, and his buy-out clause is of €20 million. That piffling amount, given what is being splashed out on the market these days, is attractive for any big club. Madrid know that they cannot negotiate with the current Athletic chairman because relations between the two institutions are not good, and the only way to do it is for the player to buy himself out, paying that €20-million clause.

After all the classic denials ahead of January 1st in order not to fall into any error that FIFA might punish them for, Madrid then let the player know their interest in him signing during this winter window. Kepa even travels from Bilbao to Madrid for a medical -he is injured at the moment- and when everybody is expecting an official announcement of an agreement between the player and the club, Zidane comes out and says he does not need a goalkeeper. And then it is leaked out that he might need to have surgery. A fine mess.

This statement from the manager has brought about a small earthquake within the club, to the extent that the signing is, at the moment, on hold. It is true that there is the whole of the rest of January for talks to be resumed, and in Madrid’s current state, anything could happen. It remains to be seen, though, how the goalkeeper himself reacts. Maybe he will get tired of waiting and will start talking to the other clubs who are stalking him. Florentino Pérez, in fact, has mentioned in private to several journalists that it was more of a strategic signing, to make sure he does not end up at PSG, for example. Kepa could be wearing a smile on his face in the next few days, or end up like De Gea was, jilted, alone and resentful.