Chelsea break British transfer record to sign £106m Enzo Fernandez
Chelsea dramatically agreed a British record deal to sign midfielder Enzo Fernández with an hour of the January transfer window to spare to push the club’s spending past the £500 million mark under the Todd Boehly-Clearlake Capital ownership.
Co-controlling owner Behdad Eghbali led negotiations with Benfica from London on transfer deadline day and refused to take no for an answer during more than 12 hours of negotiations to clinch a deal that awaited confirmation, but will push Premier League spending over £800 million in January.
A breakthrough was finally made at around 10pm on Tuesday, ahead of the window officially shutting at 11pm, for Fernandez to move to Stamford Bridge for a fee just over £106m (121m euros), with the clubs racing to complete the necessary paperwork in time and a deal sheet lodged that granted Chelsea an extension.
Chelsea had already agreed personal terms on a long-term contract, thought to be eight-and-a-half years, with Fernandez and put the necessary paperwork in place to complete a transfer as quickly as possible even if an announcement was not possible ahead of the deadline itself.
The transfer will not only set a new club record, but also eclipse the previous British record that was set by Jack Grealish’s £100 million move to Manchester City from Aston Villa.
During the January transfer window alone, Chelsea had already spent over £150 million on Mykhailo Mudryk, Joao Felix on loan, Benoît Badiashile and Noni Madueke, plus a host of promising youngsters, ahead of deadline day.
The addition of Fernández means that Chelsea’s spending, since the Boehly-Clearlake takeover, over the summer and January transfer windows surpassed £500 million.
The last-gasp deal for Fernández means that Chelsea landed their number one January target right at the end of the window, having previously seen a first bid of around £70 million rejected earlier in the month.
Chelsea had been reluctant to meet the buy-out clause in Fernández’s contract, but, as revealed by Telegraph Sport, reopened talks with Benfica last weekend about trying to find an agreement.
The prolonged negotiations centred around the structure of the transfer, with Chelsea offering to make one large payment up front and stagger the rest of the fee over five further payments.
Benfica originally demanded Chelsea pay the full £105 million buy-out clause in Fernández’s contract in one payment. But a breakthrough was finally struck in the final round of talks late on Tuesday night as the deadline rapidly approached, with sources claiming Chelsea agreed to pay £40 million up front with five payments to follow.
While Eghbali was in London with head coach Graham Potter, Chelsea booked a hospital in Portugal ready for Fernández to complete a medical and sent a private jet on which to fly him to England.
Benfica left Fernández out of their squad for a game against Arouca on Tuesday night as the 22-year-old Argentina international waited for his transfer to Chelsea to go ahead.
The fact that the Fernández negotiations went on so late pretty much ended any chance of Conor Gallagher leaving Chelsea on deadline day.
A number of clubs, including Everton, Crystal Palace and Newcastle United, had expressed an interest in signing Gallagher, either permanently or on loan, but the England international will stay at Stamford Bridge and compete for a place over the second half of the season.
Having sold vice-captain Jorginho to Arsenal, Chelsea also held lengthy negotiations over Hakim Ziyech moving to Paris Saint-Germain. The winger travelled to France to take a medical and complete a loan move, but the transfer was held up over a paperwork problem that threatened to stop the deal going through.