Real Madrid Transfer Blow as Kepa Arrizabalaga Renews Athletic Bilbao Contract

Matt JonesFeatured ColumnistJanuary 22, 2018

BILBAO, SPAIN - DECEMBER 02:  Kepa Arrizabalaga of Athletic Club reacts during the La Liga match between Athletic Club and Real Madrid at Estadio de San Mames on December 2, 2017 in Bilbao, Spain.  (Photo by Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images)
Juan Manuel Serrano Arce/Getty Images

Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga has agreed a new long-term contract at the San Mames, bringing an end to speculation linking him with a move to Real Madrid.

The Basque outfit confirmed the extension on their Twitter account on Monday, with Kepa agreeing terms until 2025:

As relayed by Football Espana, Madrid were strongly linked with a move for the 23-year-old, as he previously had a release clause of €20 million (£18 million) in his Athletic deal.

According to Macu Briones of Marca, the goalkeeper had had enough of the drawn out attempts from Madrid to get a deal done.

"Real Madrid's repeated insistence that they are not desperate for a deal, combined with a foot injury, meant that an already complicated deal became almost impossible," said Briones.

Interest from the European champions is no shock, as Kepa has developed into one of the best goalkeepers in the Spanish top flight.

Here is one of the many highlights he has enjoyed this season, per the La Liga account:

The youngster is a rounded goalkeeper. While he doesn't excel in any area in particular, his game is solid in all aspects, giving him the platform from which he can make more improvements.

Kepa is a fine shot-stopper, commands his box well and is smart in the way he distributes the ball. The signs early in his career are that he has the determination and application to continue developing, too.

Keeping him around is a boost for Athletic, especially after it was recently confirmed that another young star in Inaki Williams had also signed a long-term contract.

The forward appeared pleased at the news his team-mate had extended:

For Madrid, the search for a new goalkeeper will seemingly go on, with Keylor Navas likely to remain the first choice for the remainder of the campaign.

Kristof Terreur of Het Laatste Nieuws believes Los Blancos may turn to the Premier League in an attempt to improve their options between the sticks:

It was reported in December by Miguel Delaney of The Independent that Madrid have a longstanding interest in Manchester United's David De Gea, while they are also admirers of Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois.

De Gea and Courtois have both been linked with Madrid.
De Gea and Courtois have both been linked with Madrid.Alastair Grant/Associated Press

While Navas is a capable stopper, the position is one area of this star-studded Madrid squad where they could make significant improvements, and Kepa would've been a potential long-term solution for the capital club.

However, the goalkeeper is clearly content with life at the San Mames and will hope to be a big part of a bright future for one of Spain's biggest clubs.