Enzo Fernandez didn’t make his senior international debut until September 2022. In just a few months, he became a starter for Argentina and helped them win the World Cup. The 22-year-old midfielder’s rise to the top has been quick, even by the standards of modern football. Benfica only bought him from River Plate for about €14 million last summer. Now, Chelsea has bought him for €121 million, which is the most ever paid for a player in the Premier League and one of the most in the world.
The effects of Fernandez have been nothing short of amazing. In 2019, he played his first game for River Plate. A year later, he went on loan to Defensa y Justicia. In 2022, he played for River again under manager Marcelo Gallardo and scored 10 goals in 28 games.
In the summer of 2022, Benfica bought him and gave him the No. 13 shirt that club legend Eusebio had worn. In 29 games, he scored four goals and set up seven more. The Liga BWIN head coaches named him the best midfielder in Portugal’s top league in August, October, and November. He also helped the team win their group in the UEFA Champions League, beating out Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus to get to the next round.
But Fernandez made the biggest splash with Argentina. The midfielder had played for the under-18 team before making his senior debut in a 3-0 win over Honduras in September 2022. In November 2022, he was named to Lionel Scaloni’s 26-man World Cup squad.
Unbelievably, he got used to international soccer so quickly that he was in the starting lineup by the last group-stage game against Poland. Fernandez went on to win the tournament and take home the trophy. He also won the FIFA Young Player Award for the tournament.
His contract said that he could leave for €120 million, so Chelsea moved quickly to sign him before any of their rivals could. So what can we expect in the future from him? ESPN looks at the numbers with Tor-Kristian Karlsen, who used to be a scout.
As a right-footed central midfielder, he was used as part of a “double-pivot” in Roger Schmidt’s 4-2-3-1 formation for Benfica, but he has played many different roles in his career.
When you look at the skills of a central midfielder, there’s usually one thing that stands out. Are they quick, active passers who decide how the ball moves around the field? A brilliantly strong No. 8 who can carry the ball and pass opponents in the middle of the field while still having control of it? Or are they more of a playmaker or creative genius who, when they get an idea, are great at passing the ball to the forwards in the last third? How about the clean, fast No. 6 who can get the ball back, avoid pressure, and pass to a teammate who is in a good spot?
So Fernandez is all of those things and a little bit more. Labeling him is hard because he is so complete that it is hard to put him in a clear positional box. — Karlsen.
By the Numbers
Fernandez’s senior international career is only 10 games old so far, but he made a big impact in helping Argentina win the 2022 World Cup and had more total touches than Lionel Messi (524).
Stats at the 2022 World Cup
– Matches: 7
– Touches: 558
– Pass accuracy: 87.6%
– Chances created: 6
– Shots: 8
– Goals: 1
– Expected goals: 0.30
– Recoveries: 39
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Fernandez is so popular with Europe’s top clubs because he has a wide range of skills and knows how to use them well. One thing about his game that stands out right away is how fast he moves. He’s very eager to get the ball; he’s always moving, so he’s always ready to receive a pass, and once he has it, he keeps moving it sideways to keep the game going and speed it up.
Then, when there’s a more complicated way to pass, he’s happy to take the next step by picking line-breaking balls in the center of the attack. When he gets the ball in wider areas, he’s great at hitting precise, cross-field switch balls to the other winger, and the fact that he averages close to 100 passes per 90 minutes shows how active he is and how much he affects the game.
Because he was given a lot of freedom in Benfica’s midfield and liked to move around, he may not have been directly involved in as many goals as he could have been. However, if you look at the actions that led to a goal, it’s often Fernandez who made the second-to-last pass, and if he didn’t, it’s usually because of his early creativity.
well-developed sense of angles and space, as well as the ability to move around without getting stuck. He often shows the same high level of skill when he takes powerful, well-placed shots from far away to test the other team’s goalkeeper.
Fernandez is very good without the ball because he has the same energy and mindset that make him so good with it. He is perfect for the modern pressing game because he can move quickly, track back, and defend. Even though he is only 5 feet 10 inches tall and not very big, the 22-year-old makes up for his small size and height with his determination and character. He also makes a lot of tackles, a very impressive 2.80 per 90 minutes. — Karlsen
How He Can Improve?
For a young midfielder whose game seems so unique and complete, it’s hard to see any obvious or immediate weaknesses. He quickly learned European football, both Portuguese football and the Champions League, and had a big impact on Argentina’s World Cup-winning team.
It makes you wonder if he can keep getting better at the same rate or if he’s already reached his full potential. Even if he didn’t get better, he would still be one of the best central midfielders in the world at his current level. But will he still be as good when the game moves faster, there is more pressing, and he has less time with the ball? — Karlsen
How Will He Fit At Chelsea?
In recent years, Chelsea has had trouble in the middle of the field, and Fernandez is one of the best young players in that position. His passing and movement should help break down defenses, and his drive and stamina will help the team get points and move up in the league. But will Graham Potter give him as much freedom as he did at Benfica, or does he risk being “boxed” into a more fixed position?
At 22, he may also be feeling the weight of such a huge transfer fee. Fernandez needs to get going right away to show that he is worth this much money.
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