Premier League • England

Boehly botches record Chelsea deal with Liverpool, Man Utd both back in play

Enzo Fernandez of Argentina during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group C match between Argentina and Poland at Stadium 974.

Benfica manager Roger Schmidt has insisted a Chelsea move for Enzo Fernandez this month is “closed”, and Fabrizio Romano has clarified claims linking Liverpool and Man Utd to the Argentine.

The Benfica midfielder, 21, has enjoyed a remarkable rise over the last six months. He moved to Portugal from River Plate last summer, though has quickly established himself as one of world football’s most in-demand stars since then.

A fantastic campaign with Argentina in Qatar enhanced his reputation even further. The end result was genuine speculation one of England’s elite could activate his colossal release clause.

Fernandez’s deal contains a clause worth €120m (approx. £105m). Liverpool and Man Utd were both mentioned alongside a move, though neither appeared willing to pay the full sum.

Chelsea, meanwhile, did act on their interest. They spoke with Fernandez’s camp and were given the green light by the player. However, when it came to putting their money where their mouth was, Todd Boehly and co. balked.

Indeed, Benfica boss, Roger Schmidt, recently tore into the Blues over the way they conducted their business.

Chelsea make a mess of Enzo Fernandez chase

“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.”

The discord Chelsea sewed resulted in Fernandez missing Benfica training sessions and returning back home to Argentina to celebrate the new year. The Metro reported the trip was not authorised by Benfica.

Fabrizio Romano claimed Chelsea’s bid in guaranteed money terms was a whopping €35m (approx. £31m) below the release clause.

Fernandez was left out of Benfica’s clash with Portimonense on Friday amid concerns of a fan backlash. Now, speaking in a press conference, Schmidt has drawn a line under the transfer saga… at least for now.

Transfer saga “closed” – Benfica boss

“I already said it last week at the press conference and also after the game against Portimonense,” said Schmidt. “The issue with Enzo is closed. There is no issue anymore.

“So he is our player, he is in a very good condition, he is training well, he is happy here, he is part of the squad and he is a key player.

“So I think I have already said everything about him.”

When a journalist attempted to ask how Fernandez will be received by his Benfica teammates after angling for a move, the club’s press officer shut the enquiry down.

Schmidt then reiterated: “The issue is closed with Enzo, I said that at the beginning of the press conference.”

Of course, Boehly could simply rectify the situation and pay the release clause to take the decision out of Benfica’s hands. However, there’s been no indication Chelsea are prepared to pay what would be a club-record sum in one go this month.

Fernandez’s future thus appears to lay with Benfica until at least the summer. On that front, Romano provided his own update.

He stressed any notion Liverpool or Man Utd could activate the release clause is wide of the mark. However, he did reveal both clubs made overtures to Benfica and enquired about the ‘terms of a deal’.

In other words, the two north west giants will be in the race if Fernandez’s does move on in a future window, though they’re unlikely to meet Benfica’s full asking price.

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