Football Sports

Chelsea sign Enzo Fernandez for a British record £107m from Benfica, co-owner Behdad Eghbali leading a 12 hour negotiation

Chelsea have signed Enzo Fernandez for a British record £107million after agreeing a deal with Benfica late on deadline day.

The eye-watering swoop for Chelsea’s No 1 January target headed into the last minutes of the transfer window as both clubs spent Tuesday locked in talks over the move for the Argentina international.

At one point, it looked as though Chelsea would fail to get the deal for the 22-year-old World Cup winner over the line – but both parties finally made a breakthrough just minutes before the 11pm deadline. Fernandez will sign an eight-and-a-half year deal through to June 2031.

Enzo Fernandez didn’t make his senior international debut until September 2022. Within a few months he was a starter and World Cup winner with Argentina. The 22-year-old midfielder’s ascent to the top has been rapid, even by modern football’s standards, and it was only last summer that Benficasigned him from River Plate for around €14 million. Now Chelsea have made him a Premier League-record transfer, and one of the most expensive players in the world, with a €121m transfer.

Benfica confirmed the move in a statement in the early hours of Wednesday morning after the clubs completed the necessary paperwork prior to the deadline. The Portuguese club also removed Fernandez from their list of players on the club website.

The Blues teased an announcement by changing their Twitter bio to an Argentina flag followed by a trophy emoji. 

Chelsea’s co-controlling owner Behdad Eghbali – who also sanctioned Jorginho’s move to Arsenal on Tuesday – led negotiations for the World Cup winner with Benfica from London.

Sources had earlier indicated that Chelsea could fall just short and were ready to turn their attention to completing a summer move for Fernandez because sealing a deal for this season was proving too difficult.

But Tuesday night’s agreement was met with huge relief given the club’s determination to complete the move in January.

It is understood the biggest hurdle the Londoners were trying to overcome was agreeing a payment plan for the record fee with Benfica.

Benfica, however, originally wanted Chelsea to pay Fernandez’s £105m release clause in one go. Talks on Tuesday were primarily aimed at negotiating that obstacle, with Chelsea offering to reduce the number of instalments.

It is believed Benfica were willing to accept a payment structure of three instalments over two years and eventually a middle ground was reached. Fernandez had always been open to a move, but has decided to stay out of talks out of respect to Benfica.

Despite the delay, Chelsea made preparations for his medical in Portugal and organised a private jet to fly him to England. He is due to board the flight on Wednesday morning after completing the relevant paperwork.

Benfica left the 22-year-old out of their squad to face Arouca on Tuesday and he also missed training on Monday. Personal terms had already been agreed. 

The signing brings Chelsea’s total spending in January to more than £323million. 

On a seismic day for the Stamford Bridge club, the Blues also sold Jorginho to Arsenal in a deal worth up to £12million. The Gunners turned to the Italian on Monday after conceding defeat in their bid to sign Moises Caicedo from Brighton.

They will pay an initial fee of £10million for the midfielder, who has signed an 18-month deal with an option for further year.

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