Premier League • England

Star sends parting Chelsea shot after summer exit, with project ‘not right’ despite Pochettino ‘trust’

Kai Havertz and Kepa Arrizabalaga, formerly of Chelsea

Kai Havertz and Kepa Arrizabalaga celebrate Chelsea win in March 2023

Kepa Arrizabalaga has spoken about his situation at Chelsea and his recent transfer to Real Madrid, during which he has hit the Blues with a thinly-veiled dig.

Arrizabalaga was expected to remain at Chelsea this season as new manager Mauricio Pochettino had decided to place his trust in the Spaniard. Even though Pochettino was eager to bring in fellow goalkeeper Robert Sanchez from Brighton and Hove Albion, Arrizabalaga was still expected to start the campaign as No 1.

However, things changed when two of the biggest clubs in Europe decided they were in need of a new shot-stopper. Bayern got close to landing Arrizabalaga, in a move which would have reunited him with former Chelsea boss Thomas Tuchel, but Madrid disrupted the transfer.

The Spanish giants were forced to dip into the market for a new keeper after learning world-class star Thibaut Courtois would miss most of the 2023-24 season with an ACL rupture.

Upon learning that Madrid were interested in signing him as a replacement for Courtois, Arrizabalaga rejected Bayern and prioritised a switch to the Spanish capital.

On August 14, Madrid announced Arrizabalaga’s capture on a season-long loan from Chelsea. The 28-year-old has so far made two appearances for Madrid, both of which have ended in victory.

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Arrizabalaga has now conducted multiple interviews to discuss his Madrid move. When speaking to COPE (via Sport Witness), the 13-cap international appeared to launch a dig at Pochettino by stating the Chelsea project ‘is not right’.

“I felt it was time for a change of scenery. I wanted to stay, but I felt that the project was not the right one,” he said.

Keeper criticises Chelsea but lauds Madrid

“When Madrid calls you, everything changes. My signing was closed in just a few hours and a couple of calls.”

In a separate interview with Marca, Arrizabalaga added: “Yes, it was very fast [the move to Madrid]. It’s true that Pochettino wanted me to stay and he told me that I was going to play, that he trusted me, but I thought that a change would be good for me, I wanted a change. Thomas Tuchel called me. We were close to going to Munich.”

When asked about reuniting with Tuchel at Bayern, despite not actually being his first choice at Chelsea, Arrizabalaga continued: “Yes, well it’s also true that although I didn’t play with him, it reinforces you a little that a coach, that in the first stage you have not played at all with him, then he claims or wants you in his team, this makes you feel good.”

As Arrizabalaga’s transfer to Madrid is only a loan, there is a chance he will end up returning to Chelsea next summer. And this could make for an awkward conversation with Pochettino following his comments about the Chelsea project.

Meanwhile, Chelsea are already close to landing their first signing for next year, as they are reportedly ‘one step away’ from a Brazilian capture.