Chelsea flex financial muscle with British record deal for Enzo Fernandez

The deal will almost certainly lead to questions over whether UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules are working and whether the Premier League, after its biggest ever January spend, is now so rich that it has an unfair advantage in the market.
Chelsea flex financial muscle with British record deal for Enzo Fernandez

CHELSEA BOUND: Argentina's Enzo Fernandez.

Chelsea have flexed their financial muscle in a way never seen before in Europe after agreeing the biggest fee in British football history, 120m Euros to sign midfielder Enzo Fernandez from Benfica, taking their entire spending in the transfer window to more than the total spent by all of Serie A, La Liga, Ligue 1 and the Bundesliga combined.

The staggering deadline day deal, which will take the club’s January spending close to 400m Euros once officially confirmed, underlines that new American owner Todd Boehly is determined to follow in the footsteps of predecessor Roman Abramovich by dominating the market through the sheer force of his and the club’s wealth.

It took two days of intense negotiations, complicated by Chelsea’ desire to spread payment for the player over many instalments, to get the deal to completion as the clock ran down, but once 22-year-old Fernandez, a World Cup winner with Argentina who cost Benfica just 11m Euros from River Plate a year ago, underwent a medical in Portugal it was clear that the Blues’ eighth player of the window had been secured.

The deal will almost certainly lead to questions over whether UEFA’s Financial Fair Play rules are working and whether the Premier League, after its biggest ever January spend, is now so rich that it has an unfair advantage in the market.

That’s certainly the view of clubs such as Juventus and Barcelona, who have still not given up on the idea of a Super League to close the gap. But the gap is not small and considering Chelsea have now spent a staggering 680m Euros in total since Boehly took over there's a big debate ahead.

However, money doesn’t always buy you happiness and Chelsea’s spending also has the feel of a gamble played in a rush.

When it comes to the players brought in, there’s no doubt they are exciting choices. The list also includes 100m man Mykhailo Mudryk, tipped as a future Ballon D’Or winner by some, Benoit Badiashile (40m Euros), Noni Madueke (33m Euros), David Fofana (10m Euros), Andrey Santos (20m Euros), Joao Felix (loan) and Malo Gusto (35m Euros).

But none of those names, as good as they are, guarantee success – and only three can be added to Chelsea’s Champions League squad when they face Dortmund in the last 16 this month.

So, there must be serious questions around how manager Graham Potter integrates them into his squad and how he keeps so many big names happy in what is currently a difficult season in which his side sit 10th in the table.

Chelsea were also involved in the other big story of deadline day, but for different reasons.

When you spend that much and buy so many, it’s inevitable that some players have to go. But nobody expected Jorginho to move to rivals Arsenal – that one really came out of the blue.

The Gunners have been spending money with a little less brashness but no less ambition than their west London counterparts – and perhaps in a more strategic fashion.

They couldn’t prise midfielder Moises Caicedo out of Brighton, despite offering almost 90m Euros, but instead surprised everyone with a 15m move for Euro 2020 winner Jorginho.

The transfer sees the Italian international, 31, sign an 18-month contract with a one-year extension option.

It’s a deal which confused some; after all the languid deep-lying midfielder doesn’t seem to fit Arsenal’s model of all-action, high-pressing youngsters.

But Arsenal legend Paul Merson, speaking on Sky Sports, sees it as a move which will strengthen Arsenal’s title challenge, especially as it comes on the back of news that fellow midfielder Mohamed Elneny will be out long-term with a knee injury.

Merson said: “Jorginho is so intelligent. He’ll protect the back four. He just gives it simple and he’ll be feeding Saka and Martinelli. For me, he’s a top signing. He knows the game and will bring experience and calmness. He never panics on the ball.

“People will say he slows the tempo down but sometimes that needs to happen at Arsenal. You can’t keep playing at 100 miles an hour all the time.” 

Like other recent signings, such as Gabriel Jesus and Oleksandr Zinchenko, Jorginho brings knowledge of what it takes to win trophies, a point referenced by Arteta who said: "Jorginho is a midfield player who has intelligence, deep leadership skills and a huge amount of Premier League experience. He has won in his career but still has the hunger and huge willingness to contribute here."

If some Arsenal fans are unsure about the deal there are plenty of Manchester United supporters wondering why their club didn't make a move for a player who scored 29 goals in 213 appearances for Chelsea, winning the Champions League along the way.

United needed a midfielder after Christian Eriksen picked up an injury which will keep him out until at least April. So, they turned to Bayern’s Marcel Sabitzer for a loan move.

Liverpool didn't even get that far, failing to get involved on deadline day – and that has left the Kop nervous of a painful end to what has already been an extremely difficult season.

In a deadline day quirk, Spurs brought in one right-back, Pedro Porro from Porto (who will cost them 45m Euros in the summer) and then sent another, Djed Spence, who they bought for 22m Euros from Nottingham Forest last summer but have left on the sidelines ever since, on loan to Rennes.

Reports that Antonio Conte never wanted Spence in the first place are unconfirmed - but strengthen a suggestion that money in the Premier League is often spent on a whim.

Spurs, after all, also sent Republic star Matt Doherty to Atletico Madrid, having under-used him since a 15m Euro move from Wolves in 2020 – and had to agree to mutually cancel his contract for the move to be completed. Tottenham have so many players out on loan that FIFA rules mean they couldn't add to the total.

Even some of the Premier League’s smaller clubs were able to spend big. Bournemouth spent 22m on striker Hamed Traore and Southampton beat sorry Everton to the signing of 20-year-old Rennes winger Kamaldeen Sulemana for a club record fee of 30m Euros. The youngster made headlines at the World Cup after being clocked as the fastest player in the tournament.

It left Everton, who have just appointed new manager Sean Dyche, desperately searching for a last-minute signing to appease fans after also missing out on moves for Man United winger Anthony Elanga and Sheffield United striker Ilman Ndiaye.

For those tempted to think that Arteta’s swoop for Jorginho also smelled of last-minute panic, it’s worth pointing out that he tried to sign the midfielder in 2020 – and was assistant at Manchester City when Pep Guardiola also made a bit for the Italian.

Guardiola was, as so often, quiet on deadline day. However, he did send Joao Cancelo on loan to Bayern Munich following reports of a fall out with the full-back.

That's reminiscent of Arteta's determination to move Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang out of Arsenal in similar circumstances.

But will Potter at Chelsea have the same level of power as he now balances a squad of superstars handed to him in the space of a few weeks? It’s a 400m Euro gamble that could see the club win big or implode – and nobody can really be sure which is most likely.

One thing is certain, you don’t spend that much money and not expect to win trophies. So, the pressure starts now – and the European football inquest into just how they were allowed to spend so much won’t be far behind.

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