Chelsea are back in negotiations for Benfica’s World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez as the transfer deadline of 23:00 GMT on January 31 looms.
Transfer talk around the 22-year-old intensified while he helped Argentina to glory in Qatar, winning the FIFA World Cup Young Player Award.
Liverpool have also shown interest in the former River Plate player, who is in his first season in Europe after joining Benfica from the Argentine club in the summer.
What’s the current state of play and how likely is Fernandez to be a Premier League player in February? Here’s what we know.
MORE: Chelsea transfer news: Latest January window updates as Blues push for Enzo Fernandez before deadline day
Enzo Fernandez Chelsea transfer news: What’s the latest?
Chelsea bid £105.6m ($130.7m) for Fernandez on January 30, hours after stories emerged that the Blues had re-entered negotiations for him.
The figure is significant because it matches the release clause in his contract. Benfica head coach Roger Schmidt accused the frontrunners for his signature of trying to sway Fernandez and being disrespectful towards his club at the start of this month, although he did not directly name Chelsea as his suitors.
According to transfer journalist Graeme Bailey, Chelsea have now agreed a £115m British record fee for Fernandez.
Despite his release clause being set at £105m, they have agreed to pay more in instalments to Benfica in order to secure his signature now.
The biggest spenders in the Premier League this season are said to have irritated Benfica by previously offering a deal involving payments in instalments or a lower amount including the loans of David Datro Fofana, Andrey Santos and Hakim Ziyech in the opposite direction.
Enzo Fernandez news: How likely are Benfica to budge?
“We all know that we have a situation with Enzo, that he has a clause in the contract,” Schmidt said, as relayed by transfer reporter Ben Jacobs, who also claimed that Chelsea have been encouraged by Benfica’s “engagement” over the potential deal.
“That means if the player wants to and there is a club who pays this amount of money, you cannot stop that. At this moment, he is our player and there is no deal.
“We will see what happens in the next two days. He is a great person and player. As long as the transfer window is open, you always have to expect that something can happen… we know how football business is. I can’t say anymore.”
Enzo Fernandez Liverpool transfer: Could other Premier League clubs move in?
A spate of injuries in midfield led to Liverpool being strongly linked with Fernandez at the start of the 2022/23 season.
The Reds are expected to overhaul their midfield at the end of what has been an underwhelming season for head coach Jurgen Klopp’s side so far, with reports suggesting they held talks over Fernandez before Chelsea’s latest attempt to sign him.
Should Chelsea’s move to sign him this month through fall, it seems likely that he would be back in Liverpool’s sights in the summer.
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Klopp dodged discussing Fernandez directly when he was asked about him in September by merely affirming that Liverpool are looking to strengthen when suitable players are available.
Manchester United were also said to have an interest in Fernandez, while Wolves reportedly made a move for him while he was at River Plate.
Jacobs has said that Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid will be involved in an “open race” for Fernandez in the summer unless there is a “dramatic” development in January of the kind that Chelsea appear to have now initiated.
Chelsea could turn their interest to Brighton & Hove Albion midfielder Moises Caicedo if they cannot complete the deal.
MORE: Arsenal transfer news: Gunners pushing for Moises Caicedo before deadline day
Ecuador prodigy Caicedo has been told to stay away from Brighton training until the transfer window has closed amid uncertainty over his future.
The 21-year issued a statement on Friday voicing his desire to leave the club following an unsuccessful bid for him by Arsenal, who have since had a second offer of £70m ($86.6m) plus add-ons rejected.
Enzo Fernandez contract
Fernandez only signed his five-year contract with the Portuguese club in July but could already be on the move.
He will earn around 10 million euros a season as part of a contract until 2030 if he moves to Stamford Bridge, according to reporter Nico Schira.
Enzo Fernandez clubs and trophies
Fernandez didn’t even last a full season at River Plate after graduating from the Buenos Aires club’s youth ranks into the first-team in 2021.
The midfielder got his first taste of senior football with Defensa y Justicia before returning to the Argentine capital. There, his performances were so impressive that Man United, Real Madrid and Inter Milan considered signing him.
After joining Benfica, Fernandez was straight in at the European deep end. He has shone in the Liga Portugal, becoming a mainstay in the table-topping starting XI and top performer in the Champions League.
Benfica received a brutal Champions League draw, with Juventus, PSG and Maccabi Haifa in their group. However, the Liga Portugal leaders incredibly went on to win Group H, beating Juventus twice and holding Kylian Mbappe and Co. to 1-1 draws home and away.
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