One of the January transfer window’s longest-running sagas went down to the final hours in nail-biting fashion on deadline day, with fans on tenterhooks to see if a British record move would be completed in time after hours of further intense negotiations in Lisbon centred on the payment structure.
Eventually, Chelsea did clinch a last-gasp £106.8million deal in dramatic fashion that eclipsed the £100m Manchester City paid Aston Villa for Jack Grealish back in the summer of 2021, taking their total January spending to around £320m on eight new players and over £600m in just two windows under their new Boehly-Clearlake ownership group.
The Blues are now waiting to see if Fernandez will receive a work permit in time to make his debut in Friday night’s Premier League west London derby against local rivals Fulham at Stamford Bridge.
Benfica put up a valiant fight in their attempts to retain the services of Argentina’s World Cup winner and the young player of the tournament at Qatar 2022, having only signed him from River Plate for approximately €18m last summer.
Fernandez’s push to leave the Portuguese giants so soon appeared to sour his relationship with manager Roger Schmidt, who criticised his conduct earlier this week.
The player later sent a heartfelt message to Benfica fans and blamed “the press” for “staining what we built together”.
Addressing Fernandez’s exit on Thursday, club president Costa insisted the 22-year-old gave Benfica no choice over a sale and said he would not cry for a player who so clearly did not want to be at the Estadio da Luz.
“Enzo Fernandez did not want to stay at Benfica. He didn’t give us any chance. I did my best, I’m sad but I’m not gonna cry for a player who didn’t want to stay,” he was quoted as saying by transfer specialist Fabrizio Romano.
“At that point I said: he can’t play for Benfica anymore, no way. I don’t cry for players who don’t want to wear our shirt. When Chelsea arrived, it was really impossible to change his mind”.