‘What he did wasn’t right’: Benfica boss confirms £112m Chelsea target Enzo Fernandez was left out of Benfica’s victory over Portimonense as punishment for returning to Argentina for New Year celebrations
- Enzo Fernandez was left out of Benfica’s squad for game against Portimonense
- Midfielder – who came to global prominence in Qatar – has been subject of bids
- Roger Schmidt said ‘what he did was not right’ having missed training in week
- The Benfica boss had previously said Chelsea were driving the player ‘crazy’
Roger Schmidt has revealed Enzo Fernandez was left out of Benfica’s squad for their Friday night game against Portimonense after the Argentine missed training having returned to Argentina to celebrate the New Year.
Fernandez, 21, is the subject of intense Chelsea interest and has told Benfica at numerous intervals that he wants to leave the club.
Chelsea saw a bid worth £112m – £6m more than his release clause – repelled as it was structured to be paid in three instalments totalling £37.3m each over three years.
Enzo Fernandez was left out of the squad for the club’s home fixture against Portimonense
He requested not to play against Braga last weekend before being convinced to do so, with Benfica falling to their first Liga Portugal loss of the season.
Following that defeat, Fernandez defied club orders and returned to Argentina to bring in the New Year, ensuring he missed a large chunk of the club’s preparations for this weekend’s fixture.
Speaking after his side’s 1-0 victory over Portimonense, which extended their lead at the top to six points, Schmidt publicly declared the player in the wrong but left the door very much ajar for his smooth return to the fold.
Roger Schmidt publicly criticised Fernandez for returning to Argentina – but left the door very much ajar for his return to the fold
‘Now you have a clean slate. He is our player, we count on him and we need him to be champions,’ he said.
‘What he did wasn’t right, that’s why he wasn’t in the team today.’
Schmidt’s comments come merely days after he accused Chelsea of ‘disrespect’ in their pursuit of Fernandez.
The west London club are looking to rebuild their squad under Graham Potter after a difficult few months since his arrival. They have already secured the £35m capture of defender Benoit Badiashile from Monaco on a seven-and-a-half year deal.
While striker David Fofana has also joined from Molde and the club have finalised a deal for midfielder Andrey Santos from Vasco da Gama.
Fernandez (back, middle right) returned home to Argentina to bring in the New Year having told Benfica he wished to leave the club
However, Fernandez clearly remains the ultimate aim – though a deal now looks unlikely given the reluctance to pay his £106m release clause in full.
‘We do not want to sell Enzo. Not me, not the president, nobody,’ Schmidt said.
‘We know, everyone knows, he has a clause in his contract and if the player wants to leave and someone comes and pays the clause, of course we cannot work against that. Then maybe we will lose the player.
Benfica have turned down Chelsea’s offer of £112m – to be paid across three years in instalments
‘There is a club who wants our player. They know we don’t want to sell the player. They tried to get the player on their side and they know that they can only get this player when they pay the clause.
‘So it is a very clear situation. What the club who wants to buy Enzo is doing is disrespectful against all of us, against Benfica and I cannot accept it.
‘To make the player crazy, pretend they can pay the clause and then want to negotiate, this is not what I understand about a good relationship between clubs who maybe want to discuss a player. So that’s what I can say about the whole topic of Enzo.’
Chelsea have endured a difficult few weeks since the return of domestic football following the conclusion of the World Cup.
The restart began well for them, beating Bournemouth 2-0 at home on December 27 but injuries and a seeming uncertainty over how they should be playing contributed to a disappointing 1-1 draw away at Nottingham Forest before they were beaten at home by Manchester City 1-0 on Thursday evening.
Graham Potter’s side currently sit 10 points outside the top four in 10th, and a further 19 points off the pace set by leaders Arsenal.
Benoit Badiashile was in attendance for Chelsea’s 1-0 loss to Manchester City on Thursday night
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