Saul Niguez has admitted that Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa played a key role in his decision to move to Stamford Bridge in the 2021 summer transfer window, informs the IBT Times.
Kepa and Niguez have been teammates at the Spanish national team for four years now but their association goes back to younger days in Spain soccer. Niguez, who has joined Chelsea on a season-long loan for the 2021-22 campaign from Atletico Madrid, has said that Kepa’s presence in Stamford Bridge will further help him settle down at a new place.
“It is very important that he will be there. It is an important step. If he had not been there, it would have been different. Going on loan for a year and having a team-mate with whom I have spent many years in the younger categories of the national team is important,” Niguez was quoted by Goal, as saying on Twitch.
As an 11-year-old, Saul joined the academy of Real Madrid, where he spent two years. In 2008, the promising midfielder moved to Atletico Madrid and managed to turn things around for himself. He rose through the ranks of Atletico before making his senior debut with the Wanda Metropolitano during the 2011-12 season. Niguez netted 43 goals and 21 assists in as many as 340 competitive appearances for Atletico Madrid over the years. He played a key role last season, where Atletico Madrid beat the likes of Barcelona and Real Madrid to claim the La Liga title.
During the 2021 transfer window, Niguez was being chased by several clubs, including Liverpool FC and Barcelona. While The Reds were looking at Niguez as an ideal replacement for Gini Wijnaldum, Barcelona wanted to increase their depth. In fact, Barcelona wanted to include Antoine Griezmann in the deal to land Niguez. In the end, while Chelsea grabbed the Spaniard, the Catalans were anyway forced to offload Griezmann due to their financial crisis. Griezmann has returned to Atletico Madrid on loan but the contract includes a compulsory clause of permanent signing next summer.
Saul Niguez of Atletico de Madrid in action during the La Liga Santander match between RC Celta de Vigo and Club Atletico de Madrid at Estadio Abanca Balaidos on August 15, 2021 in Vigo, Spain.
Photo: Photo by Jose Manuel Alvarez/Quality Sport Images/Getty Images
Since Niguez’s move to Chelsea happened at the last minute before the ending of the 2021 summer market on Tuesday, the player compared it to Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea’s failed move to Real Madrid in 2015.
“At 11:57 p.m. we finished reviewing the contract and they had to see it there. I was like De Gea. I thought: ‘This is not going to come in and that’s it.’ It has been a long afternoon and night. My wife was very nervous, we have had some very complicated days, because this decision is not easy. Leaving my house on a new adventure is complicated,” added Niguez.