Fernandez signing caps big-spending Chelsea's latest spree
Chelsea completed another staggering spending spree by its new American ownership — more than $350 million this time — by signing Argentina midfielder Enzo Fernandez for a British-record fee on the final day of the January transfer window on Tuesday.
A day of negotiations between Benfica and Chelsea’s co-owners ended with the Premier League club agreeing to pay the release clause of 106.7 million pounds ($131.4 million) in the 22-year-old World Cup winner’s contract. The Portuguese club announced the transfer in a statement early Wednesday
The fee eclipsed the 100 million pounds (then $139 million) Manchester City paid Aston Villa for England international Jack Grealish in 2021.
Chelsea has spent more this month than every club in the top leagues in Spain, Italy, Germany and France combined. And following a big outlay in Europe’s summer transfer window, Chelsea has splashed out around $630 million in the first two windows overseen by the new ownership — fronted by Todd Boehly — since the purchase of the club for $2.5 billion in May.
Chelsea signed eight players in January and handed most of them long contracts — as much as 8 1/2 years for Fernandez, for example — to allow the club to spread the cost of the signings over the length of the deals and comply with financial fair-play regulations.
Fernandez only joined Benfica from Argentine club River Plate in August, for a reported fee of around $10 million, but his profile was boosted by his performances in the World Cup after breaking into Argentina’s team in the group stage and starting every game through to the final. He was voted as the best young player at the tournament.
Chelsea will hope its latest spending spree — which includes bringing in Ukraine winger Mykhailo Mudryk in a deal worth around $108 million and France center back Benoît Badiashile for $40 million — helps the team climb the Premier League standings in a late attempt to qualify for the Champions League. The team is in 10th place, 10 points off the top four.
The final day of the window was another busy one for Chelsea, which also sold midfielder Jorginho to Premier League leader Arsenal while its winger, Hakim Ziyech, held talks with Paris Saint-Germain about a loan move without a deal being announced amid reports of issues with the paperwork.
JORGINHO TO ARSENAL
Italy international Jorginho has cost Arsenal a reported 12 million pounds ($14.75 million) in a move that gives the league leaders an extra option in midfield in their bid to win a first top-flight title since 2004.
Arsenal made a late move in the transfer window to strengthen its central-midfield department, with Mohamed Elneny — a backup to first-choice holding midfielder Thomas Partey — ruled out for a lengthy period because of injury.
Attempts to sign Ecuador international Moises Caideco from Brighton were rebuffed last week, leading Arsenal to turn to Jorginho, who helped Italy win the European Championship in 2021.
He spent 4 1/2 years at Chelsea after joining from Napoli but was no longer a regular player at Chelsea under manager Graham Potter.
Arsenal also loaned out midfielder Albert Sambi Lokonga to Crystal Palace and 19-year-old Brazilian forward Marquinhos, who is midway through his first season at the club, to second-tier Norwich to get more first-team action.
CANCELO LEAVES CITY
Manchester City sent Joao Cancelo on loan to Bayern Munich for the rest of the season, with the Portugal fullback having fallen out of favor with manager Pep Guardiola since the World Cup.
The German champions have the option to make the transfer permanent for a fee of 70 million euros ($76 million).
SABITZER TO UNITED
Manchester United reacted quickly after Christian Eriksen was ruled out Tuesday for as much as three months with an ankle injury by signing fellow midfielder Marcel Sabitzer on loan from Bayern Munich.
“Sometimes in life you have to make quick and important decisions,” Sabitzer said.
Sabitzer, who has played 68 times for Austria, wasn’t first choice for Bayern this season.
TOTTENHAM’S RIGHT BACKS
Tottenham manager Antonio Conte places a lot of importance in his wing backs and the club switched around the players on the right side on deadline day.
Spain wing back Pedro Porro joined from Sporting in Portugal on loan, with Tottenham obliged to buy him for a reported 39 million pounds ($48 million) at the end of the season. To make room in the squad, Tottenham sent Djed Spence on loan to Rennes in France and mutually agreed to the termination of Matt Doherty’s contract to enable him to join Atletico Madrid in Spain.
FOREST AND BOURNEMOUTH ACTIVE
Nottingham Forest and Bournemouth were busy bolstering their squads for their bids to avoid relegation from the Premier League.
Forest brought in three players — the signature signing being Costa Rica goalkeeper Keylor Navas on loan from Paris Saint-Germain for the rest of the season. Felipe, a 33-year-old Brazilian central defender, arrived from Atletico and midfielder Jonjo Shelvey came from Newcastle.
Bournemouth signed Dynamo Kyiv defender Illia Zabarnyi, who is highly rated having won 24 caps for Ukraine by the age of 20, and Ivory Coast midfielder Hamed Traorè from Italian team Sassuolo on an initial loan agreement which will become permanent at the end of the season for a further five years.
Leeds signed center back Diogo Monteiro, who has been a captain of Portugal’s youth teams, from Swiss team Servette while Australia defender Harry Souttar, who impressed at the World Cup, joined Leicester from second-tier Stoke.
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Steve Douglas, The Associated Press