Enzo Fernández: “These numbers have nothing to do with me. It’s football’ | Chelsea

‘ANDeverything went very quickly,” says Enzo Fernández, recalling breaking into the first team at River Plate, stepping out of the shadows to become an important figure in Argentina’s World Cup triumph and “the nerves that let go” as the minutes ticked by before he finally joined to Chelsea for £106.8m on the last day of the transfer window.

“It’s really only three years, my professional career. A lot has happened in a very short time. I still feel like I’m in a practice period – a learning period, still a learning curve.”

This may sound like an odd analysis of the most expensive player in English football history, but given the former Benfica midfielder, it seems fair. Voted best young player of the World Cup, Fernández never pretended to know all the answers.

The 22-year-old only moved to Europe last summer, and when he made his River debut three years ago, he wasn’t cocky; considering no further playing opportunities, he went on loan and continued his development at Defensa y Justicia under former Chelsea and Argentina striker Hernán Crespo.

“I learned something at every stage of my career,” says Fernández. “But it has to be said that River was the club where I really learned my stuff. They really developed me as a person, on and off the pitch. River were the ones who opened the door to Europe for me. Then to win the World Cup with this amazing group of players is a dream, isn’t it?

“It’s hard to win a world championship. But we had players with skills and a really strong mentality. You never lose your desire to learn. It has always meant my style, my game and my training – wanting to improve, wanting to be better as a player and as a man.

Fernández is an easy companion for 30 minutes on Chelsea’s training ground. He answers in Spanish, but his English is improving. Sometimes he interrupts the translator’s translation to provide a little more detail. The sense is that Fernández is not flustered by the fuss around him. “These numbers have nothing to do with me,” he says of his transfer fee. “It’s part of football. My job is to go out and do my best.

Chelsea may well find their next leader. Fernández, who says the club did everything possible to sign him, dismisses suggestions he went crazy in January trying to force Benfica to sell. He is relaxed with Chelsea’s poor form. They signed eight players last month and their owners have spent over £500m since last summer.

However, Graham Potter’s side are 10th in the Premier League before visiting Tottenham on Sunday, have struggled to score on a two-win streak in 14 matches and are in danger of being knocked out of the Champions League by Borussia Dortmund.

“When you have that many young lads and we’ve all had 20 days to get to know each other, when you talk about the standard of football here, it’s hard to form a gel as a team,” says Fernández. “But we got all the tools we need from the coaching staff and the manager. It’s just a matter of patience.”

Argentine Enzo Fernández kisses the World Cup trophy.
Enzo Fernández kisses the World Cup trophy after Argentina’s thrilling victory in the final against France. Photo: Kieran McManus/Shutterstock

Chelsea were booed off after last week’s home defeat to Southampton. “My message to the fans would be to never forget that we represent you,” says Fernández. “Trust us. Trust the players, trust the backroom staff, trust the manager. Because we are all heading in the same direction. This is a restructuring of the club. From Sunday we will try to win games. Then we can start turning things around.”

Fernández, who signed an eight-and-a-half-year contract, offers hope. He was outstanding during his six months at Benfica, helping them win their Champions League group. He can pick a pass, control the game, score and score. He also built a high-speed connection with João Félix. Fernández, who scored Félix’s goal in the last draw with West Ham, hopes Chelsea will buy out Atlético Madrid on loan.

“He called me when I got here to see if he could help me with anything,” says Fernández. “When you get along with someone, it helps on the pitch. He’s a great player, isn’t he? Let’s hope Chelsea will do everything in their power to keep him.

skip previous newsletter promotion

Fernández, named after former Uruguayan striker Enzo Francescoli, appreciates talent. He thinks back to watching English football growing up in Buenos Aires. “I always got up early. I know the times – on Sunday mornings we watched the Premier League. Four hours difference in winter, three hours in summer.

“We watched teams like Chelsea, Manchester United and I was aware of the Argentines playing here – (Sergio) Kun Agüero, (Carlos) Tevez, (Gonzalo) Higuaín. I am the youngest, my brothers and sisters had their own houses, so me and my dad in bed buddy – herbal tea – watching TV”.

The love of football is clear. When Lionel Messi retired from international football in 2016, 15-year-old Fernández begged him to reconsider. Seven years later, they were teammates at the World Cup.

Fernández was the symbol of a new generation of Argentines. But he was a substitute when Argentina were stunned by Saudi Arabia in the first leg in Qatar. The second match against Mexico was tense. It was still 0-0 when Fernández came on. But Messi turned things up seven minutes later and Fernández made it 2-0 with a brilliant shot. “It was just priceless, that moment,” he says. “Messi? It’s not even debatable. He’s the best player ever. It was a real privilege to share the dressing room with him.

Argentina started with Fernández in midfield and won an amazing final against France. Messi inspired them. “He’s one of those leaders who is really positive all the time, both in terms of the example he sets in his game and on a human level in the locker room,” says Fernández. “He is down to earth and kind to everyone. He offers support to everyone on the team, from the biggest stars to the youngsters.

“I felt very aware that he was with me the whole time, giving me a lot of moral support. It was my biggest dream to play with Messi. And then to go on this team to win the world championship, it’s almost like God gave me a huge gift. Are Messi and God different from each other? “No, maybe not,” Fernández smiles. “What can I take from this time with him? Energy. It was a special wardrobe, a lively wardrobe.

“Energy, positivity and a true will to win, but also humility. I know I’m still young and have to keep learning, but maybe tomorrow, maybe sometime in the future, I really want to show that I’m a leader.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *