Despite being just 28 years old, Arsenal’s goalkeeper David Raya has a fascinating transfer history. He arrived in England at the age of 16 without knowing any English and went through several club changes, including one where he had to wash his own kit.
In an interview with “The Guardian,” Raya revealed, “My story isn’t your typical footballer’s journey.”
Raya was brought in to compete with Aaron Ramsdale at Arsenal this summer in a somewhat surprising transfer. The Gunners paid £3 million for the loan, which includes a fixed buyout clause of £27 million. This move came as Aaron Ramsdale seemed to have established himself as the number one goalkeeper at the Emirates in recent seasons.
Initially, Mikel Arteta mentioned rotating the two goalkeepers, but Raya quickly became the established first choice, both in the Premier League and the Champions League.
Reflecting on his challenging journey to become Arsenal’s primary goalkeeper, Raya looked back at how he transitioned from being a reserve goalkeeper in the youth team of Cornella in the Spanish third division to a transfer to Blackburn at the age of 16, after the team was invited to train with the Lancashire club.
Arriving at Blackburn without knowing any English, Raya adapted to the new club and country, playing in the Rovers’ academy before going on loan to Southport to make his first-team debut at the age of 18.
Speaking about his experience in the team from the fifth level of English football – the National League, Raya told “The Guardian,” “We trained at the local university. We wore our own kit, washed it ourselves, brought our own bag, towel for the shower, and all the matchday essentials. I was used to it; I had been living on my own since I was 15, but it toughens you up, teaches you not to take things for granted.”
“There were players for whom the win bonus could be the difference between making it to the end of the month or not, having a little money for their kids, or paying the water, gas, electricity, and rent. If I hadn’t been there, I wouldn’t have seen that. Now it’s deeply rooted in me,” Raya added about his time at Southport.
After returning to Blackburn, Raya initially played as a backup to Jason Steele before becoming the first choice in the 2017/18 season when the club played in the Championship.
Following one season as Blackburn’s first choice in the second division, he moved to Brentford, where he helped secure promotion to the Premier League.
Arsenal aimed to sign him in 2021, but Brentford was not willing to sell him. Instead, the Gunners opted to sign Ramsdale from Sheffield United.
It appeared that Raya had missed his chance to sign with Arsenal two years after that transfer. Tottenham and Bayern Munich showed interest in the Spanish goalkeeper this summer, who also earned a call-up to the national team.
However, Raya mentioned that after talking to Arteta, it became clear that he is still wanted at the Emirates: “I spoke to Mikel this summer. Expectations and pressure at Arsenal are higher, but you want that because it’s part of being at a big club. You have to deal with it.”
Regarding the ongoing competition with Ramsdale, he said: “Everyone has their opinion. If people want to discuss, let them. I have a very good relationship with Aaron, and both of us are there to help the team. The manager chooses who plays, and that’s it. There will always be debates, especially in a club like Arsenal.”