Signings make Chelsea's squad complete: Sarri

LONDON • A frantic 48 hours in the transfer market provided Chelsea with a timely lift after last weekend's Community Shield defeat by Manchester City.

The 2-0 loss left new Chelsea manager Maurizio Sarri rueing the difference between the two teams, with Pep Guardiola's champions looking sharper and fitter than the Italian's side.

Sarri has been in the post for less than a month and the last thing he needed was to go into the first game of the new season at Huddersfield today against the backdrop of a protracted stand-off between the club and goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.

Courtois' decision to stay away from the club this week in a bid to force a move to Real Madrid could have had a negative impact at Stamford Bridge, reviving memories of the dispute with Diego Costa 12 months earlier.

But Chelsea moved quickly to sign Kepa Arrizabalaga from Athletic Bilbao for £71.6 million (S$126 million) - a world record for a goalkeeper - on a seven-year contract, triggering Courtois' departure for Real.

As part of the deal for Courtois, Croatia midfielder Mateo Kovacic moved in the opposite direction on a season-long loan.

Sarri feels that his squad are now "complete" after the signings of Kepa and Kovacic.

A SUITABLE REPLACEMENT

(Courtois) wanted to go to Madrid, so we lost maybe one of the most important goalkeepers in the world now. We bought a young goalkeeper, I think one of the most important among the young goalkeepers in Europe.

MAURIZIO SARRI , Chelsea manager, on the last-minute movement of goalkeepers.

"I'm very happy for both, because the Courtois situation was clear," he said yesterday at a press conference.

"He wanted to go to Madrid, so we lost maybe one of the most important goalkeepers in the world now. We bought a young goalkeeper, I think one of the most important among the young goalkeepers in Europe.

"I'm really happy with Kovacic. He has the characteristics for us. I'm really very happy and I think now the squad is complete."

Kepa has said he does not feel pressured by his price tag and believes the Blues have made a "great bet".

"In terms of being the most expensive 'keeper in the world, it's something I don't think about," he said. "I'm just going to be myself and try to give my best to the club.

"I don't really think about the price. It is not something I have in my mind. I just think Chelsea have made a great bet in taking me. I will do everything I can to repay the trust they have put in me."

Asked whether playmaker Eden Hazard could yet join Belgian team-mate Courtois in Madrid, with the Spanish transfer market open until the end of the month, Sarri added: "Hazard is with us. I think definitely. It's not a problem. I have spoken with him three, four times, for everything.

"He never said something about the market. I think he's very happy to stay here.

"I think it's impossible. Here the market is closed, so we cannot change important players now. It's impossible."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, GUARDIAN

HUDDERSFIELD V CHELSEA

Singtel TV Ch102 & StarHub Ch227, 10pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 11, 2018, with the headline 'Signings make Chelsea's squad complete: Sarri'. Print Edition | Subscribe