The Blues made a £115million bid for the 22-year-old that would smash the British transfer record. But negotiations are continuing over the structure of the deal, with Chelsea wanting to stagger the cost of the transfer fee to help them comply with Financial Fair Play (FFP) rules.
Chelsea offered over his release clause in order to pay in instalments and avoid paying a large sum in one go. Amid uncertainty over his future, Fernandez is set to miss Benfica’s game against Arouca on Tuesday.
Fernandez was one of the breakout stars of the World Cup in Qatar and has made it clear this month that he wants to join Chelsea. They were hoping for a breakthrough in talks over the Argentina star, with personal terms already agreed to bring him to Stamford Bridge on a seven-and-a-half year contract.
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Chelsea co-owners Todd Boehly and Behdad Eghbali were at the World Cup to see Fernandez win the award for best young player. Manchester United and Liverpool had also identified Fernandez as a transfer target but neither have the financial means to sign him this month.
Chelsea have been keen to wrap up a deal in January before being rivalled by other clubs in the summer. A move for Fernandez would take Chelsea’s spending under new owners Boehly and Clearlake beyond £500m.
The Blues failed with a move for Fernandez earlier this month but have re-opened talks after cooling their interest in Moises Caicedo and Amadou Onana.
Benfica manager Roger Schmidt said on Monday: “While the transfer windows are open, we have to be prepared for anything.
“We all know that there is this situation with Enzo, who has a release clause, and, if there is a club that pays it, it’s a lot of money, we cannot prevent it. If that happens, we’ll have to be prepared and find solutions.
“At the moment Enzo is still our player, and we’ll see what happens until the end of the market.”
Arsenal are closing in on the signing of Jorginho, which would free up space in the Chelsea squad. Conor Gallagher could also leave before Tuesday’s deadline.
Should Chelsea seal a deal for Fernandez, he would become their 17th new signing since the club was taken over last summer.