Arsenal target Kepa Arrizabalaga is reportedly set to sign a new contract with Athletic Bilbao, a deal set to include an increased release clause worth £66.5 million.
Arrizabalaga, one of the most highly touted goalkeepers in Spain, has also drawn admiring glances from La Liga giants Real Madrid. However, a report from Spanish source Marca (h/t TalkSport.com) has revealed the 23-year-old stopper will now extend his stay with Basque club Bilbao as "a new deal with an annual salary of around £2.7million is very close to being agreed. What's more, Arrizabalaga's release clause will be raised from £8.8m to £66.5m."
TalkSport also noted how Arrizabalaga "has drawn comparisons to Manchester United's David De Gea" while being "strongly linked with both Arsenal and Madrid."
Those links seemed strongest when the precocious 'keeper reportedly gave Bilbao an ultimatum about his next contract. Spanish source AS (h/t Uche Amako of the Daily Express) said Arrizabalaga had demanded a salary of £1.9 million per year to stay.
Again, the Gunners and Los Blancos, this time along with Serie A side Napoli, were credited with monitoring the outstanding goalie.
Since the terms outlined in Marca are significantly higher than those AS credited Arrizabalaga with demanding, it's a good bet he will be staying at the San Mames Stadium, rather than simply letting his current contract expire next summer.
Alternatively, this could be Bilbao's way of making sure they don't lose a prized asset on a free transfer in 2018. Instead, the club only allowed to recruit Basque players could ensure an expensive bidding war between the Gunners and fellow suitors, with a lucrative fee sure to provide ample consolation for Bilbao should their first-choice goalkeeper move on.
Either way, Arsenal don't need to view initially missing out on Arrizabalaga as a major blow of any kind. After all, the north London club is well-stocked at goalkeeper, with veterans Petr Cech and David Ospina both highly capable figures between the posts.
Cech, 35, is manager Arsene Wenger's choice for Premier League matches and remains a formidable stopper, even in the winter of his career. The former Chelsea ace recently produced a superb, fingertip save to deny West Bromwich Albion forward Jay Rodriguez early on in what proved to be a 2-0 win for the Gunners.
Meanwhile, Ospina has remained Wenger's go-to choice for cup competitions. The 29-year-old Colombian recently made a string of impressive stops during Arsenal's 4-2 away win over BATE Borisov in the UEFA Europa League.
Ospina also performed admirably when called upon to start last season's FA Cup final against Chelsea, a trophy claimed by the Gunners after a 2-1 win denied the Blues a league and cup double.
Monitoring a gifted young 'keeper like Arrizabalaga makes sense as sound future planning from Arsenal. Cech's age, along with Ospina's desire to start more often, means Wenger has to start thinking about ways to refresh things between the posts.
Ospina was heavily linked with Turkish side Fenerbahce during this summer's transfer window. Wenger's other options include 25-year-old Emiliano Martinez, who is on loan at La Liga side Getafe, as well as Matt Macey.
For the moment, though, Wenger should feel secure enough about his options at goalkeeper not to be drawn into any bidding war for Arrizabalaga.