Fernandez was one of the stars of the World Cup in Qatar, playing a key role in Argentina’s success with a host of clubs now jostling for his signature.
Despite only joining Benfica from River Plate in the summer, Liverpool and Manchester United have both shown serious interest, with both sides holding advanced talks with Benfica and Fernandez’s representative this month.
Chelsea however appear to have blown their rivals out of the water, agreeing to pay the midfielder’s €120million (£105m) release clause.
According to The Sun, Chelsea have met with both Benfica president Rui Costa and super-agent Jorge Mendes, with the Blues confirming they will have no issue in meeting that huge release clause.
It now leaves Chelsea free to open talks with the player and his representatives as they seek to agree personal terms.
Benfica have not given up hope yet however with Costa trying to persuade Fernandez to remain at the club until the end of the season.
But reports elsewhere suggest the club are already lining up a replacement for the 21-year-old with Racing Club’s Carlos Alcaraz and Velez Sarsfield’s defensive midfielder Maximo Perrone both on Benfica’s shortlist.
Chelsea are hoping to rebuild their midfield in 2023 with N’Golo Kante and Jorginho both entering the final six months of their contracts at Stamford Bridge.
The club have long been interested in bringing West Ham United star Declan Rice back to the club but Todd Boehly has shown a huge statement of intent in targeting a January move for Fernandez, now one of the most sought-after young stars in the game.
The midfielder returned to Lisbon this week and when asked about his future on Monday, Fernandez said: ‘I don’t know about my future or proposals, that’s what my representative is taking care of.
‘I don’t want to get into the subject. I am focused on Benfica, we have a game on Friday.’
Speaking earlier this month, Benfica president Costa insisted that Fernandez would not be sold unless his release clause is triggered.
‘We have the sole objective of having a winning season, no player will leave – unless it is due to the clause – which at this moment is fundamental for the squad,’ he said.
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