Enzo Fernandez joins Chelsea
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Enzo Fernandez is now in unique territory as the most expensive transfer in British football history after sealing his £107million transfer to Chelsea. And with that status comes enormous pressure and expectation, as Paul Pogba can attest when he joined Manchester United in a similar blockbuster transfer.
The 22-year-old has signed an eight-and-a-half-year contract to 2031 worth a reported £170,000-a-week, after Chelsea finally agreed a deal with Benfica late on Wednesday following exhaustive negotiations in Lisbon.
Almost overnight, Fernandez has gone from being a promising footballer that impressed at the World Cup to one that cost £107m. The best players tend to show their ambition by wanting to play at the highest level and that was evident with Fernandez, who made it clear he wanted to join Chelsea when they first made their interest known.
Paying such a high fee could have differing effects depending on the player’s personality. And the former Benfica midfielder is one that plays with such confidence and passion that he may well end up thriving with his new elevated status. But the eye-watering numbers could also have the opposite impact, as it proved with Pogba.
The Frenchman signed for United in 2016 in an £89m deal, a transfer that was supposed to propel the Red Devils back into contention for league titles and other silverware under Jose Mourinho. But the weight of expectation took its toll on Pogba, in addition to a long line of injuries, and by the end of his contract at Old Trafford, his departure was not deemed to be a gutting loss.
The World Cup winner struggled to meet the lofty standards that he had set at Juventus for the Red Devils, scoring 39 goals and registering 51 assists in 226 appearances in his six-year, second spell in Manchester. As a central midfielder, goals were not necessarily a requirement every week, but people expected Pogba to influence games more than he did.
When Pogba’s exit was officially announced, Patrice Evra gave some insight into how he felt Pogba was victimised due to his transfer fee and that the Frenchman had been made a scapegoat for United’s lack of trophies during his time at the club.
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“Everyone expects Paul to score three goals per game — he’s a midfielder,” he told The Mirror in May 2022. “I ask everyone to look at the statistics from when Paul was playing for Juventus to now. He’s done much better than when he was playing for Juventus.
“Paul was everything from outside; social media, people were talking about his haircut when he was not playing.”
Likewise, demands will be made for Fernandez to produce match-winning performances after his big-money move. Every touch will be scrutinised, every move he makes on the pitch has to be spot on.
If he has a bad game, his peroxide blonde hair will be blamed by some choice pundits. If he parks in the wrong parking space, it will be on the back page of newspapers. Pogba experienced the same and Fernandez must cope with the treatment that comes with being a star.
Typically, goals are not his speciality, although Chelsea fans could be forgiven for thinking he was blessed with a thunderous right foot after his stunning goal at the World Cup for Argentina. He has provided five assists in 17 games in the Portuguese Liga and generally impressed in the Champions League too.
But the Premier League is the toughest division in the world to be successful and even the likes of Kevin de Bruyne and Mohamed Salah needed two bites at the cherry in England to leave their own legacies.
Only time will tell how Fernandez deals with the new pressure of being Chelsea’s main man, but he will need to start delivering quickly if he is to avoid the same ‘scapegoat’ tag Pogba received.
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