Chelsea star Kepa reveals the goalkeepers that he looks up to as role models in the game

Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has reflected on his first season in England and revealed the goalkeepers he looked up to as role models in the game. The former Athletic Bilbao man was put under pressure before he ever stepped foot in the dressing room because of his huge transfer fee and he revealed that he spoke with David de Gea of Manchester United as soon as he completed the move.  Kepa pictured applauding Chelsea fans in Germany on Thursday after a 1-1 draw with Frankfurt

Athletic Bilbao announced on their website that Arrizabalaga had paid his required release clause €80 million making him the world’s most expensive goalkeeper only weeks after the record was set by Alisson’s transfer to Liverpool. However the Spanish shot stopper explained in an interview with Matt Barlow of the Daily Mail that he knew what to expect.

The Spain international also disclosed the goalkeepers that he looked up to in the game listing Pepe Reina, Petr Cech, Victor Valdes and Iker Casillas as his role models. He was on duty for Chelsea when he heard that Porto goalkeeper and Real Madrid legend, Casillas suffered a heart attack.

“I hope it was nothing more serious than a scare and a warning,’ he says. ‘I send him huge good wishes from here for a swift and full recovery. We play football but we are human beings and your personal health is the most important thing. I was coming through the youth ranks just at the time when Iker was at his peak. He was one of the best around and it was such a huge shock.”

“I never really had one idol because there were several, I would study all goalkeepers: Victor Valdes, Casillas and Pepe Reina, Petr Cech. I would take little things I liked about different keepers and try to incorporate them into my game, irrespective of whether they were top keepers or from a lower standard.”

Manchester United’s David de Gea warned him what to expect when he arrived in England last summer after Chelsea agreed to pay Athletic that huge sum and handed him a seven-year contract.

”I spoke with De Gea many times in the national team,” says Kepa. ”He told me the first season in England for him was difficult in every aspect, that’s always quite tough. Change always takes a bit of time and effort. Change is always difficult. The style of football in the league is different to the football played in Spain.”

”That’s what I’ve noticed the most. It’s more physical, the referees let a lot more go and allow a lot more contact here. Before I came here I would have my routine work out in the gym and a plan I followed. I’ve not had to change it greatly.”

The Blues have not particularly challenged for the league title despite enjoying a fantastic start to the season. There is still time, however, to leave another mark on the season. Sarri’s team have the penultimate Premier League fixture against Watford on Sunday as they try to secure fourth place in the Premier League and return to the Champions League next season.

There would also be another cup final to round of their season if they can finish the job against Eintracht Frankfurt on Thursday after the 1-1 draw in Germany this week. “That is our target,’ says Kepa. ‘To finish in the top four, reach the Europa League final and win a trophy. We know it’s not easy but that would be a good first season.”

“It’s been great. It is a change, everything’s different, a new country, a new league, a new team but it has given me a step forward in my career and that’s why I have committed to sign for Chelsea for so many years. I am really happy with how things have started. I am trying to adapt and that is something I must continue to do.”

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Kepa would be hoping to end his first season with the Europa League as it would be the first major trophy of his senior career. If the Blues finish in the top 4, he would consider his debut season to be a huge success while he can get the confidence to do even better next season.