Chelsea complete record signing of Benfica's Fernandez
Chelsea announced the signing of Enzo Fernandez from Benfica on Wednesday after days of complex negotiations between the clubs to secure the Argentina midfielder for a British transfer record 106.8 million pounds (US$131.46 million).
As the deadline day approached its end on Tuesday, it appeared a deal might not be reached but a statement from Benfica confirmed that it had been done shortly before 23:00pm GMT.
Premier League club Chelsea announced the signing on Wednesday 10:00am GMT via a video on Twitter, which showed a clip of a clock ticking down, making a reference to the race against time to sign the World Cup winner.
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 300 million pounds and to more than 500 million pounds 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 Tuesday.
"Sport Lisboa e Benfica - Futebol, SAD informs that it has reached an agreement with Chelsea FC for the sale of all the rights of the player Enzo Fernandez, for an amount of US$132 million," a Benfica statement read.
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 US$123 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.