Spain No. 1 David De Gea praises Kepa, warns him over leaving La Liga
Manchester United's David De Gea says he has been impressed by how good Athletic Bilbao goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga is and warned the youngster to stay in Spain.
Kepa, 23, is considered one of the most promising goalkeepers in Spain and has been linked with Real Madrid for months. He has been in talks with Athletic over a new deal since January but negotiations have been unsuccessful.
Reports in Spain claim that Kepa, who made his senior international debut in Saturday's 5-0 friendly win over Costa Rica, could leave Bilbao as early as January 2018, before he becomes a free agent in the summer.
De Gea, who almost joined Real Madrid himself in August 2015 before signing a new deal, said in a news conference ahead of Spain's friendly away to Russia on Tuesday: "Kepa is still very young. He has a long career ahead of him. But his head is in the right place.
"When you train with him you realise that he has a very high level. He is a great goalkeeper. He needs to continue to compete at this level and grow game after game.
"I'm also young and we [De Gea, Kepa and Pepe Reina] are here with the maximum enthusiasm to help the national team."
Kepa, who made his league debut in September 2016, has made 35 saves in 10 league starts for Athletic this season and recently said he is not paying attention to speculation about his future.
But De Gea insisted that staying in Spain would benefit Kepa and that players in the national team who play abroad always have to make more of an effort to be noticed.
"All the players like me that leave Spain, we are not followed as much as those that are playing at home and people forget a little bit about us," he said. "That is why we try to be there and do things to be talked about."
Adriana Garcia is a Valencia-based football writer who covers La Liga for ESPN FC.