The reasoning behind Chelsea's willingness to spend big on Fernandez


The World Cup was the perfect platform for players to showcase their talent. Knowing full well all eyes would be on the competition, there are those who used Qatar 2022 to boost their reputation ahead of the January transfer window. Perhaps the biggest breakout star, and one who'll be high on wishlists across the continent next month, is Benfica and Argentina star Enzo Fernandez. 


The young midfielder only made his Argentina debut back in September as a second-half substitute in a 3-0 friendly win over Honduras. Fernandez wasn't even first choice for La Albiceleste at the World Cup, and it took a superb cameo against Mexico, where he sealed a vital group stage 2-0 win with a superb effort that found the top corner, that Lionel Scaloni elected to use the 21-year-old from the outset. He kept his place in midfield for the remainder of the World Cup, and was ultimately key in Argentina's success. 


Benfica are now aware of heightened interest in their star man's services, that not even Aguia Vitoria, the club's official mascot, can keep the circling vultures at bay. And yet it could have been so different for Fernandez and Argentina. When Benfica confirmed they had struck a deal with River Plate to sign Fernandez, a stipulation was that the Argentine side retained the youngster's services until the end of their Copa Libertadores campaign. 


Few could have foreseen River Plate crashing out of South America's prime club competition at the last-16 stage, and so Fernandez became a Benfica player in July, rather than, as was planned, in November. The Portuguese powerhouse could hardly believe their luck. Fast forward to the present day, and Benfica are top of Liga Bwin, with Fernandez key in the middle of the park. 


Fernandez has returned a WhoScored rating of 7.13, that the 17th best in Portugal's top tier, with the World Cup winner showcasing every facet of his game that makes him such a man in-demand. Indeed, he has returned three assists from an average of two key passes per 90 in Liga Bwin this season, while 106.7 passes per 90 also ranks top in the division, reinforcing statistically calculated WhoScored strengths of 'key passes' and 'passing'. 


Yet at the World Cup, we saw less of the creative side to his game, and more ball-winning and possession-recyling. 3.5 tackles per 90 ranked seventh of those to make it through the group stages, while 74.8 passes per 90 was 15th. In the Champions League, too, Fernandez is averaging four tackles per 90, that placing the Benfica star 16th of those to have featured in more than half of their team's games.


The reasoning behind Chelsea's willingness to spend big on Fernandez


Proof, then, that Fernandez can play any number of midfield roles should the opportunity present itself, but for any potential suitor, allowing him to dictate the tempo in the middle of the park is where we will see him flourish. This is perhaps a core reason behind Chelsea's interest in Fernandez. Considering N'Golo Kante's injury issues, coupled with Jorginho's impending contract expiration, the Blues need reinforcements in the middle of the park, with Fernandez seemingly their number one target. 


Of course, Chelsea will need to break the bank in order to sign Fernandez - Benfica are adamant that any interested party will need to trigger the player's €120m release clause in order to land their No. 13 - but in the long run; he would be worth it. He is a player more than capable of dictating the tempo in midfield, as he showed at the World Cup, and did so in Liga Bwin and the Champions League prior to Qatar 2022. 


What stands most out about Fernandez is the range of passing. Able to play the short simple passes to keep play ticking over, Fernandez is more than capable of spreading the ball to the wings or opt for a more direct approach to goal, noted in that 10.7 accurate long balls per 90 is the best return in Liga Bwin this season. Working best alongside a designated ball winner - for Benfica, Florentino carries out this role in Roger Schmidt's favoured 4-2-3-1 formation - Chelsea perhaps view Fernandez as the perfect successor for Jorginho in the midfield, particularly with the Italian unlikely to be short of offers should he opt against extending his stay in west London. 


Benfica are understandably keen to retain Fernandez's services as they chase a first title in four years, which explains why they are demanding his release clause paid in full if they are to sell one of their prized assets. His rise to superstardom has been rapid to say the least, so it's no surprise Europe's elite sides are keeping tabs on Fernandez, who looks destined to become one of the best in the game.

The reasoning behind Chelsea's willingness to spend big on Fernandez