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Chelsea confirm deal for Argentine midfielder

Chelsea has announced the signing of Enzo Fernandez from Benfica after days of complex negotiations between the clubs to secure the Argentina midfielder for a British transfer record $204 million.

Enzo Fernandez of Argentina
Enzo Fernandez of Argentina Photo: AFP

As the deadline day approached its end, it appeared a deal might not be reached but a statement from Benfica confirmed that it had been done shortly before 11pm local time.

Benfica's statement said Chelsea would pay the contract release fee for the 22-year-old, who has signed an eight-and-a-half year deal with the London club.

It takes Chelsea's transfer spending in January alone to close to $575 million and to $950 million since last May's takeover by an investment group led by American Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital.

Boehly has sanctioned more spending in this transfer window than the combined total of all clubs in Europe's other big leagues -- the Bundesliga, La Liga, Serie A and Ligue 1.

According to media reports, Chelsea will pay the release fee in several instalments -- the number of which became a sticking point for the deal until late on the final day.

Benfica signed Fernandez in July 2022 from River Plate, who will also benefit from the deal courtesy of a 25% sell-on clause. Fernandez bagged four goals and seven assists in 29 games in all competitions for Benfica this season.

His fee eclipses the $192 million Manchester City paid Aston Villa for England midfielder Jack Grealish in 2021.

Fernandez was instrumental in Argentina's World Cup-winning campaign in Qatar, breaking into the starting lineup and playing every game, scoring one of the goals in a vital victory over Mexico in the group phase.

He capped off the tournament by bagging the Young Player Award as Argentina won the trophy for the first time since 1986.

Questions will be asked about how Chelsea have managed to spend so much money on transfers in light of Financial Fair Play rules but for manager Graham Potter it is now about trying to blend in so many new faces and revive Chelsea's season.

They are 10th in the Premier League, 10 points adrift of a top four spot.