Chelsea want to sign Benfica midfielder Enzo Fernandez before Tuesday's deadline; Portuguese side have so far refused to do business unless the Blues pay £105.6m release clause; Chelsea have also tried to sign Brighton's Moises Caicedo and Everton's Amadou Onana this month
Tuesday 31 January 2023 16:06, UK
Chelsea are close to agreeing a deal for Benfica's Enzo Fernandez after making a £105.6m bid - the same value as the midfielder's release clause.
Todd Boehly's Blues want to structure that release clause fee in instalments, as paying in one go has Financial Fair Play and tax implications.
Chelsea have been in talks to sign the Argentina World Cup winner throughout this month but Benfica had refused to do business unless the Blues pay the €120m (£105.6m) release clause.
Chelsea had offered players on loan and on permanent deals but the Portuguese side refused to accept anything except the release clause figure.
The midfielder has once again told Benfica that he wants to join Chelsea. If Fernandez does move to Stamford Bridge, he would surpass the £100m Manchester City paid for Jack Grealish from Aston Villa 18 months ago, making him the most expensive Premier League signing ever.
Speaking about Fernandez's situation ahead of Benfica's match away at Arouca on Tuesday night, Benfica manager Roger Schmidt said his club could not stop the Argentine midfielder leaving if the release clause is met.
"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, but at the moment, he's our player, there's no deal.
"We will see what happens in the next two days 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."
Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
"This is the player that they really want. And we have seen so far with the new American owners at Chelsea that when they decide to go for a player they normally end up with the man that they want.
"If he was to sign for Chelsea for £105m, it would be an incredible deal for River Plate because they sold him to Benfica last summer for I think about £10m and they have a 25 per cent sell-on clause. So, River Plate will be hoping and praying that Fernandez does indeed sign for Chelsea."
Sky Sports' Jamie Carragher on Chelsea's approach in the transfer market under new owner Todd Boehly:
"It feels a bit scattergun, we thought that in the summer, I do think there is obviously a plan about what they want to do in the future," he told Sky Sports News.
"I would be really interested to know what the manager's private thoughts are as it feels like he has just come into this club and players are just coming in left, right and centre and he has to build and something and create some sort of team.
"He will have great players, but can you create that sort of team ethic and bond that all great teams need in the future? But if you are a Chelsea fan, it is really exciting. Todd Boehly has come in and put his money where his mouth is and he wants to get Chelsea right back to the top."
Sky Sports' Ron Walker:
"Fernandez's attributes make it clear how he can help. Still only halfway through his first season with Benfica, he has racked up the second-most assists in the Primeira Liga, and created 30 chances for his team-mates - some of them particularly eye-catching, and a stunning pinpoint set-up for Goncalo Ramos against Sporting earlier this month perhaps the pick of the bunch.
"It is that kind of playmaking potential which had Manchester City and Real Madrid interested in bringing him in from boyhood side River Plate last summer before he settled on a move to Lisbon.
"No-one in the Portuguese top flight has made more passes than the Argentine, and if he does prove to replace Jorginho at Stamford Bridge, he will also provide something extra in the final third where he tops the charts for passes too.
"Should Chelsea want to play with a midfield two, he would offer a better option there too. Fernandez has already taken responsibility without the ball at Benfica, slotting into an anchorman role regularly as required. He has been one of the league's top tacklers, and only 10 players across the division have won the ball back more in the middle third despite his considerable output further up the pitch."