Premier League • England

Chelsea identify Strakosha as potential Kepa replacement amid intriguing twist of fate

Thomas Strakosha during his final Lazio game

Chelsea have joined the race for Thomas Strakosha as a potential new backup goalkeeper ahead of his exit from Lazio, according to a reporter.

Edouard Mendy is the clear number one at Chelsea. The Senegal international has done well since joining the club in 2020. The same cannot be said for 2018 recruit – and the world’s most expensive goalkeeper – Kepa Arrizabalaga.

The Spaniard has struggled to justify the huge funds Chelsea spent to take him from Athletic Bilbao. Mendy has been preferred to him over the past couple of seasons. Hence, Kepa’s future is now in doubt.

The likeliest outcome is for Chelsea to send him elsewhere. Who would take him – and on what terms – remains to be seen.

Kepa’s potential departure would leave a space in the squad for someone to fill as Mendy’s main deputy. In that regard, Chelsea could turn to Strakosha.

According to Fabrizio Romano, he is one of the options they are considering in the event that Kepa leaves this summer.

Strakosha’s contract with current club Lazio is expiring at the end of the month. Hence, he would be available for free – which could be a much shrewder deal than that for Kepa ever was.

Romano clarifies that the move would hinge on Arrizabalaga departing first. But Strakosha is generating interest and may be the man Chelsea focus on.

The Blues are also close to completing the signing of Gabriel Slonina. However, Romano reveals their plan would be to leave the youngster on loan with Chicago Fire.

Hence, they will need a new recruit to provide support for Mendy. In that case, Strakosha – who was recently linked with Fulham, whose focus now seems to be on Arsenal’s Bernd Leno instead – may get the chance to play in the Premier League for the first time.

Kepa coincidentally linked with Strakosha’s current club

Kepa Arrizabalaga arriving for a Chelsea match

Indeed, Strakosha has spent his entire career so far owned by Lazio. The only other club he has represented was Salernitana, who had him on loan in the 2015-16 season.

Since he returned to the Italian capital, Strakosha made 208 appearances for Lazio. During that time, he kept 62 clean sheets but conceded 247 goals.

In the season just gone, he shared responsibilities with former Liverpool keeper Pepe Reina. Strakosha played 31 times in all competitions, including 23 appearances in Serie A.

But Lazio are now ready to move on from him. Coincidentally, they have been suggested as one of the many potential suitors for Kepa, due to the presence of his former Chelsea boss Maurizio Sarri in the Stadio Olimpico dugout.

Strakosha could be stable option for Chelsea

Although his time with Lazio has not been flawless, Strakosha could get a new lease of life by signing for Chelsea.

As a backup goalkeeper, there would be less pressure on him. Still, there would be expectations of reliability after the inconsistency Kepa has shown.

At the age of 27, Strakosha has plenty of experience behind him. That could be of use to Chelsea on the occasions when Mendy is unavailable or has earned a rest.

But they will have to weigh up their options and likely wait for movement from Arrizabalaga first.

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