Chelsea have agreed a £105m deal in principle with Benfica for Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez.
Chelsea had been in talks to sign the World Cup winner throughout this month, but Benfica had refused to do business unless the Blues paid his €120m release clause.
The Premier League side have now agreed to do so, but face a race against time to register Fernandez as their player before the transfer window shuts at 11pm on Tuesday night.
Fernandez was left out of Benfica’s squad for their game against Arouca on Tuesday night, with the 22-year-old undergoing a medical in Portugal ahead of his switch to Stamford Bridge.
According to Portuguese broadcaster SIC, Fernandez will fly to the UK on Wednesday morning, with a private jet scheduled to leave Lisbon airport at 10.20am.
Should Fernandez’s move go through without any problems, the transfer will surpass the £100m Manchester City paid for Jack Grealish from Aston Villa 18 months ago, making him the most expensive Premier League signing ever.
The Premier League’s current record buys
- Jack Grealish – Aston Villa to Manchester City, summer 2021 – £100m
- Romelu Lukaku – Inter Milan to Chelsea, summer 2021 – £97.5m
- Romelu Lukaku – Everton to Manchester United, summer 2017 – £90m
- Paul Pogba – Juventus to Manchester United, summer 2016 – £89m
- Mykhailo Mudryk – Shakhtar Donetsk to Chelsea, January 2022 – £88.5m
Fernandez will help to replace Jorginho, who joined Chelsea’s London rivals Arsenal on Deadline Day in a £12m deal.
Hakim Ziyech also looks set to follow the Italy international out of Stamford Bridge, with the Morocco winger in the final stages of completing a loan move to Paris Saint-Germain.
‘Owners want to turbo-charge Chelsea’
Sky Sports News chief reporter Kaveh Solhekol:
“There has been a breakthrough in the talks. There is a broad outline of an agreement between the two clubs and now it is a race against time to get this deal done.
“But it has been agreed in principle between Benfica and Chelsea. It is going to be a British record deal if it goes through. Chelsea have agreed to pay the release clause of €120m.
“It was getting held up because of arguments over how it was going to be paid – whether it was going to be paid over five years or two years.
“It looks like this deal is now going to be done. It is the biggest ever deal in the history of British football.
“I don’t know where to start over how much money Chelsea have spent. Chelsea have spent more money on transfers than all the other clubs in the major European leagues put together – in Germany, Spain, Italy, France.
“Since the new owners came in, Chelsea will now have spent nearly £600m on new players. They want to turbo-charge Chelsea. They want to make Chelsea not just the biggest club in the world, but the biggest club group in the world. They want to own clubs all around the world and they don’t want to waste any time.
“They want to make Chelsea bigger than Real Madrid and bigger than the City Football Group and they think the best way to do is to go out and buy the best young players in the world.”
Analysis: What Fernandez will bring to Chelsea
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.”