Chelsea are closing in on the £115m signing of Enzo Fernandez after productive talks with Benfica over a deal that would break the British transfer record.
Fernandez is the club’s top target as they look to strengthen their midfield before Tuesday night’s deadline and there is growing belief on both sides that a move will be completed.
Chelsea, who could continue their remarkable spending by making a last-ditch bid for Brighton’s Moises Caicedo, have tracked the Argentina international all month and it is understood that Benfica are beginning to look for replacements for the 22-year-old.
Benfica had been adamant that Chelsea, who have received an approach from Arsenal for the Italy midfielder Jorginho, must pay Fernandez’s release clause of £106m in one lump sum. Chelsea had a bid rejected this month but talks have continued and the Premier League club are understood to be ready to pay about £115m in instalments.
That arrangement potentially works for both parties. It allows Chelsea, who have spent more than £450m on signings since the end of last season, to avoid paying such a large sum in one go. Benfica will have held out for more than Fernandez’s clause. The record is the £100m Manchester City paid to sign Jack Grealish from Aston Villa in 2021.
Fernandez, who played a pivotal role in Argentina’s World Cup triumph, wants the move. Chelsea have been hugely active this month, bolstering their squad with the permanent additions of Andrey Santos, Benoît Badiashile, Mykhailo Mudryk, and Noni Madueke and the loan signing of Joao Felix.
Chelsea’s owners, Todd Boehly and Clearlake Capital, remain interested in Caicedo. They had a £55m bid rejected this month for the midfielder, who is also wanted by Arsenal. Potter coached Caicedo at Brighton, who remain adamant the 21-year-old is not for sale, and is a huge fan of the Ecuador international.
Any move for Caicedo could be dependent on outgoings. Arsenal are looking for cover in midfield and are interested in Jorginho, whose deal expires at the end of the season. Chelsea are unlikely to stop Jorginho leaving if they receive a suitable offer and there is also plenty of interest in Conor Gallagher.
Everton made a bid for Gallagher on Monday but the England international does not want to move to Goodison Park. Crystal Palace and Newcastle are also interested in the midfielder, who has been targeted by a team in the Bundesliga. Newcastle are interested in an initial loan for Gallagher, whose playing opportunities could be limited if Fernandez joins Chelsea.
Paris Saint-Germain are also in talks with Chelsea over a move for Morocco winger Hakim Ziyech.