Benfica head coach Roger Schmidt says the Portuguese side are being “disrespected” by another club in pursuit of their midfielder Enzo Fernandez.
The Argentina World Cup-winning star has been heavily linked to Chelsea, with the Premier League side understood to be in ongoing talks with Benfica regarding the 21-year-old.
Benfica are demanding that their €120m (£106m) release clause for Fernandez is met – with a sizeable chunk of the fee paid up front.
“There is a club that wants him, they tried to attract him, but they know that they can only have him if they pay the clause,” Schmidt said on Thursday.
“It’s disrespectful to all of us, to Benfica, they’re driving the player crazy, they pretend they want to pay the clause and then they want to negotiate.”
Chelsea declined to comment when approached by Sky Sports News regarding Schmidt’s remarks.
Sources in Portugal claim Fernandez requested to be left out of Benfica’s game at Braga on Friday, but the midfielder played 89 minutes in a surprise 3-0 loss to Braga – the Primeira Liga leaders’ first defeat of the season.
Schmidt was speaking in his pre-match press conference ahead of Benfica’s next game, which is at home to Portimonense on Friday.
Fernandez, who would become the most expensive signing in Premier League history if Chelsea met his release clause, is understood to be keen to leave the Portuguese club during the January transfer window.
Sky Sports News has been told Chelsea are not prepared to pay his release clause in full, and instead want to pay it in installs. If they can do a deal in installments, they are prepared to pay more than the £106m release clause to get the deal done as quickly as possible.
Chelsea’s pursuit of Fernandez continues after the club on Thursday announced the signing of Benoit Badiashile from Monaco in a £35m deal. The France defender is the Blues’ second arrival of the window, after David Datro Fofana joined from Molde.
Vickery: Benfica have hit the jackpot on Fernandez
South American football expert Tim Vickery gave his analysis on the Fernandez transfer saga to Sky Sports News:
“I can see Enzo Fernandez heading to Chelsea. Benfica have hit the jackpot here. This is their business model – they buy in from South America, they fatten the calf and they sell it on.
“When they bought him the summer, he wasn’t even an Argentina international. They couldn’t have imagined that at this stage he would be worth this amount of money. So, they’ve been to Las Vegas, they’ve hit the jackpot, now they want to play some poker – how much can they get for him and when can they get it?
“They don’t have to sell now. They can keep him for another six months until the end of the season if they want, which makes them difficult poker opponents. But he’s clearly going to go, if he doesn’t go now, he’ll go in the summer.Meanwhile, let’s get everyone round the table and see how much Benfica can walk away with.
“It’s a lot of money, but what I love about him – it’s not just the talent, it’s the size of the personality. I remember his debut for Argentina was only in September. He came off the bench, and in the first two minutes, he touched the ball 10 times.
“It’s him saying ‘I’ve got this. This is my scene, I’m not overawed’. Look how he changed Argentina’s World Cup campaign when he came off the bench in the second game against Mexico when they’re struggling. Not just a lovely second gaol he scored but the pass he sends to Di Maria to set up Messi for the vital first – the most important moment perhaps of the entire campaign.
“He loves a big occasion, so it’s a lot of money but I don’t think it’s money down a rat hole.”
Who will be on the move this winter? The January transfer window opened on Sunday January 1, 2023 and closes at 11pm hon Tuesday January 31, 2023.
Keep up-to-date with all the latest transfer news and rumors in our dedicated Transfer Center blog hon Sky Sports’ digital platforms. You can also catch up with the ins, outs and analysis on Sky Sports News.