Benfica president Rui Costa has revealed that they initially had an “agreement” with Chelsea that would have seen Enzo Fernandez join the Blues this summer.
Fernandez was targeted by Chelsea throughout the January transfer window.
The midfielder has enjoyed an extraordinary rise over the past couple of months as he only joined Benfica last summer from River Plate.
The 22-year-old was superb at the World Cup as Argentina won the competition for the third time. He was named as the best young player at the tournament.
Chelsea initially looked likely to sign Fernandez at the start of the transfer window last month but talks with Benfica broke down. This came as the Blues were reportedly unwilling to pay the midfielder’s release clause.
But Chelsea pushed again to sign Fernandez in the final days of the window and they completed the transfer on deadline day. He joins the Blues in a British record transfer for around €121m.
Fernandez made his full debut for the Blues on Friday night against Fulham. It was a disappointing result for Graham Potter’s side but the newcomer was impressive in the 0-0 draw.
Benfica chief Costa has now discussed how the transfer came about. He has hit out at Fernandez as he “didn’t want to stay” at the Portuguese side.
“Enzo Fernandez did not want to stay at Benfica. He didn’t give us any chance,” Costa said (via 90min).
“I did my best, I’m sad, but I’m not going to cry for a player who didn’t want to stay. When Chelsea arrived, it was really impossible to change his mind.”
The president continued: “During deadline day we found an agreement to sell Enzo to Chelsea in the summer but he didn’t want to stay.
“From the moment Enzo realised [Chelsea would pay] the value of the clause it was unrelenting. We tried to insist, but the player did not show any openness to continuing at Benfica. I proposed to Chelsea that he stay until the summer for a lower value, but the player did not want to continue at Benfica – and this is when everything changed.
“At that point, I said, ‘He can’t play for Benfica anymore, no way’. I don’t cry for players who don’t want to wear our shirt.
“I had the hope that Enzo would want to fight for the title with us. When I realised that he didn’t want to, I also didn’t want him to wear the Benfica shirt again.
“A player who even with the possibility of not losing a Euro and with a secure Chelsea contract, does not want to continue, could never stay at Benfica. This player could no longer enter the locker room.”