Enzo Fernandez set for Chelsea move
LONDON – Chelsea have activated the €120 million (S$171 million) release clause of Benfica’s Argentinian midfielder Enzo Fernandez in a deal that would make the 22-year-old the British transfer record signing, according to Sky Sports.
It is believed that the fee will be paid by the Blues in instalments, and the move will eclipse the £100 million (S$162.2 million) Manchester City paid Aston Villa for Jack Grealish in 2021.
Chelsea have been in talks to sign World Cup winner Fernandez – who was named Young Player of the tournament in Qatar – the whole of January but Benfica had refused to budge unless the player’s release clause was met.
The Portuguese side had previously accused the Blues of trying to unsettle Fernandez, with their manager Roger Schmidt claiming that the midfielder is happy staying and that any deal is “closed”.
But speaking ahead of Benfica’s Primeira Liga match away at Arouca on Tuesday night, he admitted that the club could not stop Fernandez from leaving if Chelsea are willing to pay the €120 million release fee, especially since he reportedly wants an exit as well.
“We all know that we have a situation with Enzo that he has a clause in the contract, so that means if the player wants to and there’s a club who pays this amount of money, you cannot stop that,” he said.
“Of course, for this moment, you have to be prepared, we have to find solutions.
“We will see what happens and I’m happy when the transfer window is closed and we can focus completely on the players in the squad and we can try to play a top season.”
Fernandez had joined Benfica from Argentinian side River Plate only last August, for a reported £10 million, and has scored four goals in 29 appearances for the club.
He netted once during the Qatar World Cup, the second goal in Argentina’s 2-0 group-stage win over Mexico.
Chelsea have so far signed Noni Madueke, Mykhailo Mudryk, David Datro Fofana, Andrey Santos, Benoit Badiashile and Malo Gusto on permanent deals in January and brought in Joao Felix on loan until the end of the season.
Blues midfielder Jorginho has moved the other way. The Italian has joined London rivals Arsenal on a £12 million fee until 2024 with an option for a further year.
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Manchester City defender Joao Cancelo has left for German Bundesliga giants Bayern Munich on loan after a reported bust-up with manager Pep Guardiola.
Bayern will also have a £61.5 million buy option for the Portuguese, according to reports.
Cancelo fell out of favour after returning from the World Cup, starting in just three of City’s 10 matches.
The Daily Mail reported that the fall-out between player and manager occurred at the club’s training ground and Cancelo was also said to have been furious not to be named in the starting line-up in last Friday’s FA Cup win over Arsenal.
The relationship became so bad that he threatened to leave, and Guardiola has since allowed him to depart.
Leeds United, meanwhile, have signed United States midfielder Weston McKennie on loan from Juventus until the end of the season.
McKennie moved for a reported £1 million loan fee. The 24-year-old has made 41 appearances for the USA and started all four of their World Cup matches in Qatar.
McKennie is the third USA international to team up with Leeds’ American boss Jesse Marsch after Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson joined the club in the close-season. - AFP