Soccer

Chelsea ‘eye Fernandez swap’ to salvage deal after talks collapse

Graham Potter on how the World Cup break can change fortunes

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Chelsea are preparing to revive their bid for Enzo Fernandez by including a player as part-exchange in a swap deal, according to reports. Their hopes of bringing the Argentina star to Stamford Bridge are said to have collapsed following a lengthy meeting between the clubs on Wednesday, although there is still a chance the two parties could return to the negotiating table.

The Blues are desperate to bring in the 21-year-old in the January transfer window and initial reports suggested they would be willing to break their transfer record with a bid worth £112million (€127m) using structured payments to pay a lower initial fee.

Fernandez has already agreed personal terms with Chelsea on a five-year deal that would run until 2028, with a weekly salary of around £170,000-a-week included. And that gives the Premier League club an advantage during talks with Benfica, with Fernandez pushing to leave the club this month.

However, it has since emerged, via Fabrizio Romano, that the west London club only submitted a bid of £85m for the World Cup winner and that caused the Portuguese club to terminate negotiations after failing to come to an agreement for Fernandez.

Chelsea are still hoping to strike a deal, with the American billionaire owner Todd Boehly holding talks with Benfica president Rui Costa and Portuguese super agent Jorge Mendes, who is acting as an intermediary.

And Portuguese outlet A Bola report that willing to send a player to Portugal to sweeten over the deal, although it is not yet clear which player would be willing to depart in order to make it happen.

Benfica have shown they are open to such agreements in the past, allowing David Luiz to join Chelsea for £21.4m plus Nemanja Matic back in 2011. More recently, the Primeira Liga outfit sold Ruben Dias to Manchester City for £61m and Nicolas Otamendi travelled in the opposite direction.

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Chelsea have been told to pay Fernandez’s release clause in full after Benfica president Rui Costa, which currently stands at £105m (€120m). But such a scenario is likely to create issues with Financial Fair Play (FFP) for the club after spending £270m in the summer transfer window.

It represents a huge increase on the fee Benfica paid for Fernandez only six months ago when he arrived for just £9m from Argentinian side River Plate. He has made 25 appearances for the club in all competitions and impressed when helping Benfica qualify for the Champions League last-16 knockout round.

Fernandez’s stock has risen at a rapid rate following his stellar displays for Argentina at the World Cup in Qatar, scoring a stunning goal against Mexico in the group stage.

He eventually won Young Player of the Tournament, speaking to his enormous potential, and it goes some way to explaining Benfica’s stubborn stance in negotiations.

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