Premier League • England

Benfica chief criticises ‘unrelenting’ Enzo Fernandez for conduct in Chelsea talks but ‘won’t cry’ over him

Argentina players Lautaro Martinez, Lionel Messi, Enzo Fernandez and Julian Alvarez

Benfica’s President Rui Costa has taken fire at Chelsea’s January signing Enzo Fernandez over his conduct before his deadline day move to Chelsea. 

The 21-year-old centre-midfielder set a new British transfer record after both clubs painstakingly agreed on a £107m transfer fee, as Todd Boehly continued his mega-spending spree.

Benfica made a huge profit on the Argentinian international after paying just over £10m for him last summer, but Costa was still very unhappy with the way he went about forcing the club into selling him.

Indeed, Fernandez became Chelsea’s most expensive signing in their history, even after spending huge amounts on players before his arrival.

In fact, as Boehly looked to improve Graham Potter’s squad, he has spent more than LaLiga, the Bundesliga, Serie A and Ligue 1 combined this season, showing how ridiculously wealthy Chelsea really are.

The American billionaire brought eight impressive signings in January: Mykhaylo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, Noni Madueke, Malo Gusto, David Datro Fofana, Andrey Santos, Joao Felix (loan) and, of course, Fernandez.

However, Benfica chief Costa has raised questions over Fernandez’s professionalism and how he acted after he found out that Chelsea were willing to meet his release clause last month.

Benfica chief ‘won’t cry’ over Fernandez departure

Speaking in a recent press conference, via the MirrorCosta said:

“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 going to cry for a player who didn’t want to stay. When Chelsea arrived, it was really impossible to change his mind.

“During deadline day we found an agreement to sell Enzo to Chelsea in the summer but he didn’t want to stay. From the moment Enzo realised [Chelsea would pay] the value of the clause it was unrelenting.

“We tried to insist, but the player did not show any openness to continuing at Benfica.

“I proposed to Chelsea that he stay until the summer for a lower value, but the player did not want to continue at Benfica – and this is when everything changed.

“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.”

While the £107m fee represents a fantastic return for the Portuguese giants, it’s understandable that their fans, along with Costa, would be frustrated at losing arguably their best player in the midst of a title race.

Potter suggests Chelsea ‘overpaid’ on Fernandez deal

Interestingly, Chelsea manager Potter has also admitted that his club may have overpaid in their pursuit of Fernandez, but no doubt will still be happy to acquire his services.

Speaking in a press conference, the Blues boss said: “I can understand overpaying, but every transfer is a gamble.”

“If you look at the market for midfield players – and midfield players that haven’t won the World Cup – you’ll be quoted a lot of money”

“We’ve got a player with a huge personality. He played in the midfield for Argentina that won the World Cup. He has attributes that can help him play in any league in the world.”

Indeed, Fernandez arrives with quite the pedigree. As mentioned, he was a key player as Argentina clinched their first World Cup victory since 1986.

The midfielder has also already made five appearances in the Champions League and has won several trophies with River Plate, so there is no doubting his quality.

There will be a lot of pressure on Fernandez to perform well quickly, given the huge transfer fee paid by Chelsea and the deadline day departure of Jorginho to Arsenal.

However, if his performances in the World Cup are anything to go by, he arguably has the quality to reignite Chelsea’s push for Champions League qualification.

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