There are times when descriptions are charged by the devil. When in 2012 Kepa Arrizabalaga (Ondarroa, 1994) played the European Under-19 with the Spanish team, a newspaper listed its values: "He is the player that every coach would want to have. Educated, kind and very respectful with others. He never has a bad gesture. " Until last Sunday, apparently, when the songbird breeder defends Chelsea's goal, a cable crossed him and decided to belittle the authority of his technician and refuse to change, backed in a section of the regulation that only he seemed to know among footballers, because there is no precedent for a similar reaction.
Despite the fuss at the Carabao Cup final, Kepa is cold as an iceberg, in his decisions on the turf and off the field; as if he had grown up playing in the cold chambers of the fishing boats that work in the northern seas and color the port of Ondarroa, a town of less than 9,000 inhabitants, cradle of pelotaris and porters. The last, Eñaut Zubikarai, who played in the Real; Iñaki Bergara, who is currently coach of goalkeepers in the Belgian national team with Roberto Martínez; Pello Agirreoa, who played for Athletic, Elche and Tenerife.
The coldness of Kepa Arrizabalaga was substantiated in those two days of August that served to break with Athletic and sign for Chelsea. He did not go to training in Lezama, traveled to Madrid and appeared in the T4 of Barajas with a hoodie closed cap-despite the 35 degrees of the capital, look ahead, not a single response to journalists, on the way to medical examination . The next day, already in London, he said that it was a dream.
More or less, the same thing he said a few months earlier in Bilbao, before a swarm of informants, when he appeared at a press conference to announce his renewal with Athletic, which had been postponed for more than a year. He did not move a muscle of his face before the most incisive questions about his loyalty to the club. After months of silence, the previous day allowed the first wink facing the gallery: was allowed to see in the field of Zaldupe, the team of his village, the Aurrera, during the match Division of Honor of Bizkaia against Erandio, and a photo was made with several fans of the visiting team. That gesture was interpreted as the imminent renewal, which was completed a day later.
The flirt with Real Madrid
After a year and a half of silence, with several attempts of renewal by the board of Josu Urrutia, Kepa agreed to sign a new contract with the Athletic that supposed a clause of rescission of 80 million euros. The Bilbao club seemed to avoid the danger of a premature exit by 20 million, and counted for that question with an unexpected ally. Zinedine Zidane, coach of Real Madrid, the club that was willing to pay the clause and that three times denied the arrival of the goalkeeper with the same litany: "I do not need a goalkeeper now." Kepa thought it coldly. He decided to accept the red and white offer and wait for another opportunity.
As he had done when the club decided, in 2015, that the Second B was too small and the goalkeeper would progress better in a Second team. He chose Ponferradina, where he played six months and knew the cold Berciano winter. The following year, the player, who had entered with 12 years in Lezama, returned to pack, this time Valladolid Gaizka Garitano -the current Athletic coach-, because Ernesto Valverde decided to trust Iraizoz and Herrerín.
With the renewal already in the air, in the 2016-17 season, Valverde decided to carry out a strange experiment, which went well almost by chance. He tried to give back to Kepa. Waited for Deportivo. The goalkeeper refused to leave Bilbao, so the coach started a rotation with the three goalkeepers. Iraizoz and Kepa began to alternate in the League and Herrerín played European competition.
Undeniable in London
However, before the winter market closed, Herrerín agreed to leave on loan to Leganés and in January, Kepa Arrizabalaga was injured when he took the lead in the 35th minute of the game against Alavés. Valverde was left, suddenly, only with Iraizoz and Athletic had to urgently repel Alex Remiro, on loan in Levante, for which he had to pay compensation. By then Kepa had already taken ownership, to which he returned after almost two months standing. His renovation was still stopped while his progression on the lawn was undeniable.
The 20 million clause fell short. Until Zidane threw a capote to Athletic, in a masterful move of the soccer player, cold, calculating, without showing any emotion, who waited a few months until Chelsea knocked on his door. His unexpected departure from Bilbao can be summed up in an Ander Iturraspe quote, still in shock: "I've known him all my life, I'm in a better position than anyone to explain it … And I do not know why he left."
In London, with the World Cup in between, in which he did not play a minute despite the controversy over the figure of De Gea, has been indisputable for Sarri, until the last minute of the extension of the Wembley Carabao Cup. Now, his figure is in jeopardy for the English press and Chelsea fans.
In the face of the clash tonight against Tottenham (21.00, Movistar + LC2) at Stamford Bridge, coach Maurizio Sarri is torn between alienating the goalkeeper or not, although according to statements made yesterday, it seems that Kepa will occupy a seat bench because the technician says he wants to transmit a message to the template.
"Will he play? Maybe yes, maybe not, "he replied enigmatically to the journalists at the conference. "There are consequences. If the consequence is that he plays, he must be ready to play; If the consequence is the bank, you must be prepared to go to the bank, "he continued. "It will be a decision for the group, for all the players. I want to send a message to my group. The message could be that Kepa plays or is left out. I have to decide what is best for my group, "he added.
It should be remembered that Arrizabalaga apologized to the coach and his teammates at the end of Sunday's match. Sarri alluded to a "misunderstanding" and yesterday tried to attenuate the case again: "I talked to him, of course. Afterwards, we all talk together. He apologized to the entire coaching staff, but that was not enough. He apologized to his teammates, before the club. I think he made a big mistake, but we do not want to kill him. "
Following the episode at Wembley, where Pep Guardiola's Manchester City beat Chelsea in the penalty shoot-out, the London club imposed a one-week salary fine on Kepa; that is, about 225,000 euros. The Vizcaya goalkeeper, 24, has started this season in the 26 Premier League matches that have been played so far.