Premier League • England

Boehly scheme backfires as Benfica boss humbles Chelsea in savage rant after stringing Enzo Fernandez along

Chelsea part-owner Todd Boehly

Benfica manager Roger Schmidt has branded Chelsea “disrespectful” and suggested they’re pretenders after teeing off on their seemingly doomed pursuit of Enzo Fernandez.

The Blues were world football’s biggest spenders last summer, forking out around £280m. The heavy outlays have already continued into 2023, with moves for Benoit Badiashile and David Datro Fofana already signed, sealed and delivered this month.

Christopher Nkunku will call Stamford Bridge his new home beginning in June, though the biggest prize in Chelsea’s sights for 2023 is Enzo Fernandez.

The Argentine is in the midst of a remarkable rise having just lifted the World Cup in Qatar.

That came on the back of a superb first six months in Europe with Benfica following his summer arrival from River Plate.

The 21-year-old has additional admirers in Man Utd and Liverpool, though both have been deterred by the player’s hefty release clause.

Fernandez can be signed if any club triggers a clause in his deal worth £105.6m (€120m). The only side who seemed willing to come close – or even surpass – that figure is Chelsea.

The Blues were prepared to pay an even higher sum if allowed to structure the deal in instalments. Benfica turned their nose up at that suggestion, repeatedly pointing any and all potential suitors to the release clause.

Portuguese outlet Record subsequently claimed Chelsea are only prepared to pay £79.5m up front. Now, speaking on his midfielder’s future, Benfica boss Roger Schmidt has all but confirmed Chelsea’s Fernandez pursuit is over.

Chelsea branded “disrespectful” and pretenders

Schmidt took aim at the Blues for apparently stringing the player along and turning him “crazy”.

In other words, Chelsea allegedly made both Fernandez and Benfica aware they were prepared to pay the release clause in full, though it now appears they’re hesitant to put their money where their mouth is.

Schmidt branded Chelsea “disrespectful” and the nature of his response would suggest Benfica are finished negotiating with the Blues.

The only hope for Boehly and co. now appears doing what they’ve thus been been unwilling to do – activating the release clause.

“There’s a club who want our player, “ said Schmidt. “They know we don’t want to sell the player.

“They tried to get the player on their side and they know they can only get this player when they pay the clause.

“So it’s a very clear situation, what the club is doing who wants to buy Enzo is disrespectful against all of us, against Benfica and I cannot accept what they are doing.

“To make the player crazy and to pretend they can pay the clause and later say they want to negotiate [a deal other than triggering the release clause] is not what I understand about good relationships between clubs who maybe want to discuss about a player.”

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