enzo fernandez still remembers the times. “There was a difference of four hours in the winter and three hours in the summer – we knew exactly,” he says, going back to Sunday mornings when he got up early and crawled into bed with his father to watch the game. Premier League. There he was, drinking the South American herbal drink Mate, and there he was watching his Argentine heroes—”Kun Aguero, Carlos Tevez, Higuain…”—but San Martin, Buenos Aires, Stamford Bridge stadiums and Old Trafford seemed worlds away. But now, 22-year-old World Cup winner Enzo Fernandez stands above them as the most expensive Premier League player of all time.

All journeys to the Premier League are remarkable – but Fernandez’s is described with surprising and dizzying approval. “It all went very, very quickly,” she admits through a translator, although she has now started her English lessons. happy to be here chelsea Moving to London, the “beautiful city”, was not easy with her young family. Staying at the hotel because she hasn’t found a house yet, Fernandez is trying to get used to her new surroundings by moving for the third time in less than a year.

“Really,” he begins, “a lot has happened in a very, very short time.” From Buenos Aires to Lisbon and now to London and that’s only half of it. Chelsea, after winning the World Cup with Argentina and named the best young player of the tournament in Qatar, Meets Benfica’s £106m release clause on last day of January To break the British transfer record. Overnight, he became the fifth most expensive player of all time without even reaching 100 games at senior level.

“It’s something that I really take for granted,” he replies, nodding to the record-fee question and the pressure it could represent. “It’s part of football. The money paid has nothing to do with me.” The blonde spikes from her first Chelsea appearances are gone and she looks comfortable in all black but – she carries the immeasurable presence of a World Cup winner. “My job is to always do my best to pay back that. I’m conscious of the trust Chelsea put in me.”

Fernandez made his way into the Argentina team after scoring against Mexico.

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Chelsea’s interest preceded the World Cup. They approached Fernandez, who is on his way to becoming one of football’s most coveted young stars after he moved from his hometown of Argentina, River Plate to Benfica last summer. As a £12.3m signing for the Portuguese club, he has appeared in the Champions League and has captured the attention of Europe’s biggest clubs.

But it was at the World Cup where Fernandez’s talent and value exploded. He was only playing for his country for the fifth time when he came out of the bench against Mexico to score an important group stage win after Argentina’s first defeat against Saudi Arabia; He made his debut for La Albiceleste only in the next match against Poland. The goal against Mexico changed everything, not only for Fernandez, but also for Argentina.

First of all, with Fernandez installed in midfield, Lionel Messi The biggest inspiration for the young members of the Argentina team in Qatar, this had the platform to win the World Cup for the first time. “Playing with Messi was a dream, it was my biggest dream,” Fernandez said. “Then to go on that team to win the World Cup with Messi, it’s almost like God gave me a big gift.” Who did Fernandez mean? God or Messi, is there a difference? “No,” he laughs, “maybe not.”

If Fernandez walked with God in Qatar, the example of Messi, 22, approaching this next phase of his career at Chelsea, highlights the importance of self-development and humility despite what he’s accomplished so far. .

“Messi is one of those leaders who has always been really positive, both on an exemplary playing style and on a human level,” says Fernandez. “He is realistic, humble; he is grateful and kind. He offers support to everyone on the roster, from the biggest stars to the youngsters. I knew you were with me throughout the World Cup.”

Fernandez on Messi: “I knew he was with me throughout the World Cup”

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“Messi is humble, I’m still young and I know I have to keep learning,” he adds. “I still feel like I’m in an apprenticeship, in a learning process.” Winning the World Cup – and tasting the greatest victory in the sport at such a young age – hasn’t changed his attitude or mindset: “I think it’s just a case of changing the chip in your head,” he says when he returns. After the World Cup to club football and celebratory scenes reminiscent of a rise in Buenos Aires.

“You never lose that professionalism, that desire, that competitive power,” he insists. “This is what has always expressed my style, my game and my training – wanting to learn, wanting to improve and wanting to get better as a football player and as a man.”

Chelsea was impressed and convinced by these qualities. In the final hours of the transfer window, Chelsea honored Benfica’s release clause and signed an eight-and-a-half-year contract. “Chelsea was the team that did everything they could to sign me,” says Fernandez.

The final hours of the window were “hectic” and “stressful” – Chelsea had been after him all month but Benfica refused to sell under the release clause. It was wrongly reported that Fernandez missed practice to force the move.

“I just got it done,” he shrugs, “I kept my head down. I’m so happy to have the trust of a club like Chelsea. When I was told about the project and the plans being made here, I was really excited. Being here now is taking Chelsea as far as they want to go.” It’s like wanting.”

Chelsea was one of the Premier League teams that Fernandez watched from his bed in San Martin early Sunday mornings, and the image he held was “a club that is a club, always fighting on all fronts, always in the final stages of the Champions League” . with a winning mentality.”

He arrives in London at a strange time. He saw two losses and two draws in his first four games for Chelsea, not to mention the booing and disappointment from the stands. Go back even further and Chelsea have only won two of their last 14 Premier League games under. Graham Potter. He’s in relegation form and as Potter comes under increasing pressure and criticism, Chelsea’s season is trying to turn it upside down. 1-0 first leg loss to Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League.

Fernandez arrives at Chelsea side in transition under Graham Potter

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After spending £600m on new players this is certainly not what was expected – with Fernandez at the center of it – but perhaps it could follow suit after such a significant number of newcomers.

“Football is football,” he says. “When you have this many young guys and we all have 20 days to get to know each other on and off the court, it’s hard to gel as a team. It’s just a case of being patient and we’ll get to know each other. That’s football.”

After all, this is football that lifted the World Cup in Qatar and returned to Buenos Aires as a hero celebrated by millions on the streets and booed at Stamford Bridge. After a defeat to Southampton.

Fernandez has – literally – signed on to the long-term project at Chelsea, but there is currently pressure to produce results. Fernandez sought to take charge of possession in their first appearance for Chelsea. He came to a team that seemed to lack a leader, but Fernandez looks ready to step up right away.

Connected with borrower Joao Felix – “Let’s hope Chelsea can do everything they can to keep him in June,” he says, “that would be great” – and those flashes and messages that give hope to Chelsea fans despite the team’s form. Chelsea headed to Tottenham on Sunday ahead of their home match against Leeds on 7 March and their return match with Dortmund. If the results don’t improve, the project Fernandez has committed could be headed for serious early change.

“My message to the fans will be to trust us,” Fernandez says. “Trust the players, trust the backroom team, trust the manager. Because we’re all moving in the same direction. We have a lot of new faces here and it’s really a restructuring of the club and the playing roster. I would encourage them to be patient. Remember, we know we represent them and we do our best for them. “We’re going to try to win games from Sunday. Then we can start to turn things around.”