FILE - Argentina's Enzo Fernandez runs with the ball during the World Cup semifinal soccer match between Argentina and Croatia at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, on Dec. 13, 2022. Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez became the most expensive player in British soccer history after joining Chelsea from Benfica for 106.7 million pounds ($131.4 million), the Portuguese club announced Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein, File)

Chelsea Sign Enzo Fernandez For Record Fee

After a month lengthy negotiation process, Enzo Fernandez transferred to Chelsea from Portuguese club Benfica in a record €121 million deal.

Fernandez’s transfer is the most expensive in Premier League history. The move surpasses the previous record, Jack Grealish’s 2021 transfer to Manchester City. Grealish’s fee was €117.5 million. Fernandez’s fee surpasses this by nearly €4 million.

Negotiations were lengthy, with Chelsea pursuing the Argentinian over the last six weeks. Benfica wanted Chelsea to pay Fernandez’s full release clause in one payment, which the London club was not willing to meet initially.

However, as the deadline grew closer Benfica’s owners became lenient. Ultimately a payment plan was put together, with Chelsea paying €40 million upfront. The remaining €81 million will come in three installments.

Few players have experienced a meteoric rise like Fernandez. The 22-year-old began his career at River Plate in 2019, making his first appearance for the club in the second half of their Libertadores season. Fernandez quickly became a staple of River Plate’s squad, starting all across their midfield.

In July, Benfica signed Fernandez for €44.25 million. Fernandez had a fantastic first half of his season, playing 17 matches for the Portuguese side. The midfielder lasted just half a season in Portugal before transferring to the Premier League.

This past fall, Argentina called up Fernandez for Qatar’s World Cup. He would go on to be named the best young player at the World Cup, cementing himself as one of the brightest- and most expensive- young stars.

The last three best young players at the World Cup were Thomas Müller, Paul Pogba, and Kylian Mbappé. Fernandez moves to London with lofty expectations on his shoulders.

Fernandez’s Fit At Chelsea

Fernandez figures to start at defensive midfield for Chelsea. Chelsea manager Graham Potter has deployed several different formations since he took over the club, but generally, he sticks to a 4-3-3 with a single defensive midfielder. With Jorginho’s departure to Arsenal, and injuries to N’golo Kanté and Denis Zakaria, Fernandez will start right away as the lone defensive midfielder.

Fernandez is known as a total footballer, meaning he excels in every aspect of the game. Fernandez is one of a handful of true box-to-box midfielders in world soccer. He excels defensively, operating as a speedy deep-lying playmaker while also cleaning up on the back end. He can push the ball up offensively, and when given opportunities to make plays and score goals Fernandez has looked excellent.

Potter loves players like this, so assumedly Fernandez will become a Chelsea staple. Massive expectations await him given his fee. Fernandez had an excellent World Cup, shining on the game’s biggest stage. It would be shocking if he can’t live up to the moment with Chelsea.

Fernandez joins a handful of other recent Chelsea signings. Chelsea sits tenth in the Premier League, and signings like Fernandez are faced with the tough task of bringing the club to European play come season’s end.

About Connor O'Bryan

Connor O'Bryan is a world soccer reporter for ESPN Gainesville. He also sometimes covers baseball and other sports. He has previously written for WUFT Gainesville and for Atrium Magazine. Connor also cohosts the "Off The Bar Podcast", a student driven podcast that focuses on the global soccer landscape.

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