Enzo Fernandez’s proposed move from Benfica to Chelsea looked all but done, however new reports have come to light, suggesting the Blues are no closer to signing the World Cup star.
Fernandez, 21, won the Golden Ball trophy in Qatar after he helped Argentina lift the World Cup, which has seen his valuation sore, with Benfica aware of inflated price tag.
Far from a one tournament wonder, Fernandez has been a standout figure for Benfica this season, and has played a key role in their table-topping campaigns in both the league and Champions League.
READ: Chelsea’s Enzo Fernandez transfer on the brink of collapse
That, combined with his form at the World Cup, prompted Chelsea’s January interest, but while a deal seemed almost completed, Fabrizio Romano has now reported that isn’t the case.
According to several reports, Chelsea were set to pay €127 million to sign Fernandez this month. The Blues were willing to pay €7m more than his release clause in order to split the payment into three more manageable instalments.
However, Romano has revealed that the best offer Chelsea have submitted stands at €85m, which Benfica have deemed not good enough. Rui Costa has emphasised that Fernandez will only leave the club if his release clause is activated, and with the two clubs currently in disagreement, negotiations have stalled and a deal looks further away than ever.
READ: How Barcelona snubbed Enzo Fernandez & Julian Alvarez for €30m COMBINED
As a result, Chelsea may be forced to look elsewhere as Graham Potter aims to fix the problems in his midfield. FootballTransfers takes a look at five alternatives to Fernandez that Chelsea could sign.
Declan Rice – West Ham
The most obvious candidate is West Ham United captain Declan Rice. The England international has been linked with a return to Chelsea for the past three years, and with the player wanting to leave the London Stadium, he could finally be allowed to depart.
With West Ham currently embroiled in a relegation fight after a poor start to the 2022/23 campaign, Chelsea are likely to be priced out of a January move, however, but a deal could be completed this summer.
If Todd Boehly goes all-out, then he may even pay the fee for Fernandez and sign Rice in order to provide Chelsea with a stellar midfield pairing for years to come.
Moises Caicedo – Brighton
Moises Caicedo is another improbable potential signing for Chelsea given the Blues have already nabbed Marc Cucurella, Graham Potter, and both the backroom and recruitment staff from Brighton, but the Ecuadorian is a superb midfielder and would be an excellent addition if the West London club were able to pull it off.
He has thrived since the departure of Yves Bissouma to Tottenham Hotspur and has been a key part of Brighton’s eye-catching form under Roberto De Zerbi. Caicedo has featured in both a lone and double pivot, as well as more advanced in a wide number eight role in a 4-3-3, highlighting his ability to plug multiple gaps.
Not many others in the Premier League combine defensive presence, security in possession and ball progression like Caicedo. But, he might be a little too pricey, just like Fernandez.
Kouadio Kone – Borussia Monchengladbach
A slightly different profile of player, Kouadio ‘Manu’ Kone is a dribbling machine, and doesn’t quite have the progression passing of Fernandez in his locker.
Still, he is very press resistant and is a very active, front-footed midfielder capable of winning duels in the middle of the park.
He’d need a protector sat next him in midfield, similar to Fernandez, and would add much needed physicality and bite to a fairly weak Chelsea midfield.
Martin Zubimendi – Real Sociedad
Like with all the aforementioned players, Chelsea have previously been linked with a move for Real Sociedad star Martin Zubimendi.
The Spaniard is very much in the mould of a sitting number six, capable of sweeping up opposition attacks before starting phases of play from deep. Furthermore, despite standing at 5’10, Zubimendi is in the top 10% of midfielders for aerial duels won per 90 over the past year, which is something sorely lacking at Stamford Bridge.
His footballing intelligence allows him to sniff out patterns of play and ensure his positioning to cut off passing lanes is top drawer, which is something that Fernandez is fairly poor at.
His volume of passing would need to increase at Chelsea, but that would likely come naturally by playing in a more ball-dominant side.
Edson Alvarez – Ajax
Edson Alvarez was just hours away from a move to Chelsea on Transfer Deadline Day last summer, but a deal wasn’t completed and the Mexican returned to Ajax.
Back in the Dutch capital, Alvarez has continued to thrive, with his defensive contribution standing out again. Despite Ajax’s dominance in the Eredivisie, Alvarez is still among the top players in Europe for defensive actions.
He ranks in the top one percent of midfielders for aerial duels won per 90, which as mentioned is a weakness for Chelsea, the top three percent for clearances per 90 and the top 15% for tackles per 90.
If Chelsea want an all-action midfielder who won’t cost an arm and a leg, then Alvarez is their guy. However, he is the epitome of a number six, meaning he would be perfect alongside Fernandez, rather than instead of him. But, if the Blues have been viewing Fernandez as their Jorginho replacement, then Alvarez would be a more-than-able alternative.