LONDON: Premier League side Chelsea announced the signing of Enzo Fernandez from Benfica on Wednesday (Feb 1) after a day of complex negotiations between the clubs as the Argentina midfielder joined for a British record 106.8 million pounds (US$131.46 million).
As the deadline day approached its end, it appeared a deal might not be reached but a statement from Benfica confirmed that it had been agreed shortly before 2300 GMT on Tuesday.
Chelsea announced the signing on Wednesday 1000 GMT via a video on Twitter, which showed a clip of a clock ticking down, making a reference to the deadline day.
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 more than 300 million pounds.
According to media reports, Chelsea will pay the fee in several instalments.
"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 121,000,000 euros," a Benfica statement read.
Benfica signed Fernandez in July 2022 from River Plate, who have a 25 per cent sell-on clause. He bagged four goals and seven assists in 29 games in all competitions for Benfica this season.
The 106.8 million pounds fee eclipses the 100 million pounds 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.
Benfica boss Roger Schmidt was not keen on seeing Fernandez leave but had said their hands would be tied if a club paid the player's release clause.
Fernandez is Chelsea's eighth recruit in the mid-season transfer window after the London club signed Mykhailo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, Noni Madueke, Andrey Santos, David Fofana and Malo Gusto while Joao Felix arrived on loan from Atletico Madrid. All of them are 23 or younger.
On Tuesday, Chelsea sold experienced midfielder Jorginho to Premier League leaders Arsenal for 12 million pounds. However, Paris St Germain's attempt to sign Morocco's Hakim Ziyech on loan failed.
Fernandez's transfer takes Chelsea's total outlay on players since last May's takeover by an investment group led by American Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital to around 600 million pounds as they try to rebuild their squad.
Chelsea are 10th in the Premier League, 10 points adrift of a top four spot. They next host local rivals Fulham on Friday.
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