FIFA has awarded the next Club World Cup to Saudi Arabia, it was revealed on Tuesday.

The tournament will be staged in the Middle East country from December 12 to 22 of this year, retaining its current seven-team format.

World football's governing body said the Saudi Arabian Football Federation was "unanimously appointed" to host the event by the FIFA council, which consists of members from all regional confederations.

Saudi Arabia has pushed to be recognised as a nation that stages standout sporting events, and it may bid to stage the 2030 World Cup.

A World Cup proposal from Saudi Arabia in tandem with Egypt and Greece has been mooted in reports, and intentions to bid have confirmed been already from Morocco, a Spain-Portugal-Ukraine alliance, plus a South American offering from Argentina, Chile, Uruguay and Paraguay.

FIFA is due to announce the 2030 World Cup hosts next year, with the Club World Cup giving Saudi Arabia a platform on which to showcase its capabilities.

It will feature Champions League winners from across FIFA's confederations, plus the Copa Libertadores champions and the Saudi league title holders. Real Madrid won the most recent edition, beating Al Hilal 5-3 in Sunday's final in Morocco.

Human rights groups have accused Saudi Arabia of using major events as means to 'sportswash' its international reputation, with the country having heavily invested to secure events in sports such as golf and boxing.

There was also strong criticism expressed when it was claimed the Visit Saudi tourism authority was set to be a major sponsor of FIFA's Women's World Cup this year, staged by Australia and New Zealand.

Saudi Arabia has been cited by critics as having poor records in terms of rights for women and the LGBTQ community.

The next men's World Cup, in 2026, sees the United States, Mexico and Canada serve as co-hosts, and FIFA has confirmed all three nations will qualify automatically for the finals, as expected.

FIFA said that was decided "in line with the long-standing tradition of having all hosts competing at the FIFA World Cup, as well as sporting and operational considerations".

It means there will be only three, rather than six, slots available to teams taking part in CONCACAF qualifying for the 48-team finals.

Neymar has hinted he may yet play at the 2026 World Cup, revealing that the "very big dream" still burns to lift the trophy.

The 31-year-old Brazilian said in the lead-up to last year's World Cup that it could be his last, while he was left devastated by his country's quarter-final elimination to Croatia.

In the immediate aftermath of Brazil's World Cup exit, Neymar offered no guarantees about his international future having been left "psychologically destroyed".

Two months on, Neymar appears to have digested that disappointment and said the door was not closed on his Brazil career extending to the 2026 event.

"I'll go year by year and we'll see," Neymar told TNT Sports. "Of course, I have a very big dream, that of winning the World Cup."

Neymar added that he was inspired by Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Lionel Messi's success with Argentina in Qatar.

"Leo has always been an inspiration," he said. "He always helped and encouraged me. Obviously, seeing him win at 34 [sic, 35], I think about it too."

Neymar will be 34 years old when the 2026 World Cup starts in the United States, Mexico and Canada.

The forward was part of Brazil's 2014, 2018 and 2022 World Cup squads, winning the Bronze Boot and being named in the All Star XI when the event was played in his homeland in 2014.

Ghana have appointed Chris Hughton as their new head coach following Otto Addo's exit.

Addo led the Black Stars to the 2022 World Cup, where they just fell short of progression from Group H due to defeats to Portugal and Uruguay either side of a thrilling win over South Korea.

Following their elimination, Addo confirmed his time in charge was to end immediately.

His replacement should be a familiar face to many in the Ghana setup, however.

London-born Hughton, whose father was Ghanaian, became the Black Stars' technical advisor in February last year, with his chief responsibility being to provide Addo and his coaching staff with additional expertise ahead of – and during – the World Cup.

Hughton was also said to have been behind Ghana's attempts to persuade the likes of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Eddie Nketiah and Tariq Lamptey to represent the Black Stars – only the latter has been enticed.

The 64-year-old – who has managed Newcastle United, Norwich City and Brighton and Hove Albion in the Premier League – now assumes control of the team, though the Ghanaian Football Association has not confirmed the length of his contract.

Hughton's attention will now turn to Africa Cup of Nations qualification next month, with a double-header coming up against Angola.

After two games, Ghana top of Group E with four points, ahead of Angola on goal difference.

Kylian Mbappe will go on to win the Ballon d'Or many times, according to his World Cup nemesis Emiliano Martinez.

Goalkeeper Martinez won the Golden Glove award for his performances in Qatar, as he played a key role in Argentina's triumph.

Having proved to be the shoot-out hero against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, Martinez made a crucial stop from Randal Kolo Muani in Argentina's thrilling 3-3 draw with France in the final.

The Aston Villa shot-stopper proved his mettle again in the shoot-out, though it was his celebrations in the aftermath of Argentina's victory that drew criticism from French fans.

Having made a rude gesture while in possession of the Golden Glove award, Martinez was filmed leading chants including a slant at Mbappe in Argentina's dressing room, while he also held a doll with an Mbappe mask stuck to it during the squad's celebrations in Buenos Aires.

Martinez was one of the first to comfort Mbappe, who scored a hat-trick in the final and converted his penalty in the shoot-out, after the game at Lusail Stadium, and insisted no disrespect was intended.

"I didn't mean to hurt anyone," said Martinez, who has been nominated for a FIFA Best award following his achievements in Qatar, in an interview with Ole.

"Throughout my career I've grown up with the French and I've never had the slightest problem. You can ask [former Arsenal club-mate Olivier] Giroud what kind of person I am. I really like the French culture and mentality.

"The locker room thing should never have come out. When France beat us in 2018, I remember there were songs about [Lionel] Messi. If a team beats Brazil, they will sing about Neymar. There is nothing personal against Mbappe. I respect him enormously. If we sing about him or about Neymar, it is because they are the best."

Explaining why he held the doll during Argentina's open-top bus parade through the nation's capital, Martinez said: "People threw a lot of dolls at us along the way, they threw almost a hundred at us during the journey.

"At that moment a doll with Mbappe's face fell at my feet, I picked it up because it made me laugh, I grabbed it for two seconds and threw it back, that's all. How could I make fun of Mbappe?

"He scored four goals! Four goals in the final... He must think I'm his dummy! I repeat: I have enormous respect for Mbappe. I'll even tell you one thing: he's the best French player I've ever seen."

"After the game I told him that he could be proud of himself and keep his head up because he played a great game and was one of the best players in the world.

"I also told him that it was a pleasure to play against him, that he almost won this final alone. He is a boy with immense talent. I realised facing him that he is different. When Leo leaves football, he will win many Ballons d'Or."

Martinez, who quipped his team-mates think he is "crazy in the head", also believes he is capable of not only playing in, but also winning, the Champions League.

"I'm still hungry, I want to win the Champions League," the 30-year-old said. "Obviously, I would like to do it with Villa, but it will be difficult because the club is still in its growth phase.

"I won the most beautiful title there is with the national team, and now I'm aiming for the biggest title for clubs.

"I would like to win a title with Villa, but it's complicated. You should never lose hope, we'll see what will happen. I have the feeling that I have the level to play in the Champions League and try to win it."

And what about linking up with Mbappe at club level?

"I came close to playing in Ligue 1 several times when I was younger," added Martinez, who acknowledged he almost quit football due to a lack of game time while at Arsenal.

"PSG is a great club with great players. They aim to win the Champions League every year. Who wouldn't love to play there?! Leo and Kylian are cracks! Partners that any player dreams of having."

Lionel Messi, Kylian Mbappe and Karim Benzema have been shortlisted for the FIFA Best Men's Player Award.

Messi led Argentina to glory at last year's World Cup, scoring seven times, including twice in the final, and laying on three assists.

That ended a 36-year wait for a third world title for Argentina, while for many his performances in Qatar cemented Messi as the greatest of all time.

Argentina overcame France on penalties in the showdown at Lusail Stadium on December 18, though it was not for the want of trying from Mbappe, who scored a hat-trick in a thrilling 3-3 draw, and like his Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Messi also converted his spot-kick in the shoot-out.

Mbappe won the competition's Golden Boot award after netting eight goals, while he set up another two.

Between August 8, 2021 and December 18, 2022 – the time period on which this year's FIFA Best awards are based – Mbappe scored 58 goals for PSG, the highest figure of any player across Europe's top five leagues.

Third on that list is Real Madrid striker Benzema, who won last year's Ballon d'Or and makes up the final shortlist. He netted 50 times for Los Blancos, helping them win LaLiga and the Champions League, though he suffered an injury on the eve of the World Cup and had to withdraw from France's squad.

FIFA also confirmed the nominations for the Puskas Award for best goal.

Richarlison's stunning effort in Brazil's World Cup opener against Serbia has made the cut, as has an audacious half-volley from Dimitri Payet in Marseille's Europa Conference League clash with PAOK last April.

Marcin Oleksy, meanwhile, scored a sublime overhead kick for Warta Poznan amputee football against Stal Rzeszow, and the Pole joins Richarlison and Payet on the final shortlist.

The Best Women's Player Award will also be handed out at the FIFA ceremony on February 27.

Beth Mead was crucial in England's success at the Women's Euros last year, winning the Golden Boot and being named as Player of the Tournament.

Ballon d'Or winner Alexia Putellas missed the tournament through injury but the Barcelona star makes the list, along with Alex Morgan.

Argentina's World Cup-winning boss Lionel Scaloni and Real Madrid's Carlo Ancelotti are among the finalists for The Best FIFA Men's Coach Award 2022.

The duo are listed alongside perennial candidate Pep Guardiola of Manchester City in the final three, with the latter named as a finalist for the third time.

Scaloni, who finished fourth last year, took La Albiceleste to victory at Qatar 2022 and is recognised for his efforts in helping to seal a first World Cup triumph since 1986.

Ancelotti is feted for his work with Madrid, after winning a continental double and becoming the first manager to win all five major European league titles.

Guardiola guided City to another Premier League triumph, though he fell short in the Champions League once again and saw his team's main rival Liverpool nab the FA Cup and EFL Cup.

The Spaniard will be looking to go one better than his previous two appearances as a finalist in the voting, having finished second in 2019 and third in 2021.

Among those included in the final three for The Best FIFA Women's Coach Award, England boss Sarina Wiegman picks up a sixth consecutive nod in the category.

The Lionesses manager, a two-time winner of the prize, led the team to a maiden major honour triumph at Euro 2022, securing victory against Germany on home soil.

She is joined by Brazil boss Pia Sundhage – the Swede having claimed Copa America Femenina glory – and Lyon's Sonia Bompastor, who won the treble with the French side.

The winners of The Best FIFA Football Awards will be announced on February 27.

 

World Cup winner Emiliano Martinez faces competition from Thibaut Courtois and Yassine Bounou to land The Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper Award.

Five goalkeepers were originally nominated for the award, which recognises the most outstanding goalkeeping performance in men's football during the period between August 8, 2021 and December 18, 2022, when Martinez helped Argentina win the World Cup for a third time.

Brazil's Premier League duo Alisson and Ederson missed out on the final shortlist following a vote held among the coaches and captains of international teams, as well as journalists and fans.

Martinez's immense contribution to Argentina's World Cup final win against France put him among the frontrunners for the prize, which will be handed out at a FIFA award ceremony in Paris later this month.

The 30-year-old made a crucial save to deny Randal Kolo Muani an extra-time winner in an epic 3-3 draw, before keeping Kingsley Coman's spot-kick out as Argentina won a penalty shoot-out.

Bounou also impressed in Qatar, helping Morocco become the first African nation to reach the World Cup semi-finals and matching Martinez's tournament-high tally of three clean sheets.

Courtois, meanwhile, made his biggest impact in the club game, helping Real Madrid win a Champions League and LaLiga double last term.

The Belgium international made 59 saves and kept five clean sheets during Los Blancos' successful Champions League run, recording an impressive save percentage of 80.56 per cent across his 13 appearances as they captured their 14th European crown.

Courtois made nine saves in the final as Madrid saw off Liverpool 1-0 in Paris.

Croatia are mourning the death of their former coach Miroslav Blazevic, who led them to a third-place finish at the 1998 World Cup.

Blazevic enjoyed a coaching career spanning 47 years up until his retirement in January 2015.

He won trophies with six different clubs and described ending Dinamo Zagreb's 24-year wait for the Yugoslav First League title in 1982 as his greatest honour.

The former winger spent six years in charge of Croatia and guided them to a bronze medal at France 98 in their first World Cup finals appearance.

Croatia's Football Federation (HNS) confirmed Blazevic's passing in a statement on Wednesday, two days before his 88th birthday.

The statement added: "HNS would like to express the deepest condolences to his loved ones, on behalf of the entire Croatian football family, which lost the 'coach of all coaches'."

Blazevic coached four other national teams – Switzerland, Iran, Bosnia-Herzegovina and China's Under-23s – in a coaching career that started in 1968.

UEFA president Aleksander Ceferin was among those to pay tribute to Blazevic, who was previously diagnosed with prostate cancer.

"He is the father of modern Croatian football, and one of our game's greatest coaches," Ceferin said. "His legacy goes beyond any trophy or victory, of which there were many.

"His success on the field earned him a place in football history, and his authenticity, charisma and unique sense of humour established for him the cult status that only true legends of the game deserve."

Domenico Tedesco has been named the new Belgium head coach after Roberto Martinez left his role following the Red Devils' shock group-stage exit in Qatar.

Belgium crashed out of the World Cup after winning just one of their three Group F matches, failing to match their excellent third-placed finish at the 2018 edition in Russia.

Having led Belgium to first in FIFA's world rankings between 2018 and 2021, Martinez left his post after the tournament in Qatar and has since taken charge of Portugal's national team.

Tedesco, who was sacked by RB Leipzig in September after a poor start to the campaign, will be Martinez's successor after signing a contract to lead Belgium until after the 2024 European Championships.

While with Leipzig, Tedesco delivered the club's first DFB-Pokal in its history and took them to the Europa League semi-finals before they were ultimately beaten by Rangers.

"For me, it is a great honour to be the new head coach of Belgium," Tedesco told reporters following his appointment. "I'm really looking forward to the task and I'm extremely motivated.

"I had a very good feeling right from the first conversation."

Tedesco will be tasked with making sure his new team reaches the European Championships in Germany next year, with the first qualifier set to be played away at Sweden on March 24.

World Cup holders Argentina have officially confirmed a joint bid alongside Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile to host the 2030 edition of the tournament.

A bid from Argentina and Uruguay had initially been announced in 2017 but has since expanded.

Uruguay hosted the inaugural World Cup in 1930 and would welcome the global showpiece for its centenary edition if successful.

Speaking upon confirmation of the four-way bid, Argentine Football Association president Claudio Tapia laid out his hopes to bring the tournament back to the continent where it was first held.

"We have the possibility of hosting this World Cup," he said. "It has the history, the essence, the passion with which we South Americans live football.

"Today is a very important day for the history of these four countries, of these four federations that some time ago began with a dream

"We know that this is a very big commitment and that we must show the world that Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Chile are up to the job of hosting the 2030 World Cup."

CONMEBOL president Alejandro Dominguez echoed those sentiments, adding: "Today we have a team, [and] we believe in greatness.

"We are convinced that FIFA has the obligation to honour the memory of those who preceded us and made the first World Cup possible."

There is scope yet for the bid to be bolstered by a fifth nation, with Argentina's president Alberto Fernandez adding that he hopes to see Bolivia also host games.

"This candidacy is from the entire continent," he tweeted. "For this reason, I would like, and I am going to propose, that our brother country Bolivia be part of this dream."

Lionel Messi insists there is no problem between himself and Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Kylian Mbappe following Argentina's World Cup final triumph over France.

Messi finally won the biggest prize of them all in Qatar last year, guiding Argentina to their first World Cup title since 1986.

Argentina appeared to be cruising to victory when 2-0 up at half-time, but a quick-fire double from Mbappe near the end of the regulation 90 minutes took the game to extra time.

Messi's second goal of the game had Argentina back in control again, but as before, Mbappe levelled to complete his hat-trick with two minutes left, forcing a penalty shoot-out.

Argentina ultimately prevailed 4-2 on penalties to spark wild celebrations, some of which bizarrely seemed to revolve around Mbappe.

Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was said to have called for a moment of silence for Mbappe in the changing room afterwards, and then during Argentina's celebratory parade in Buenos Aires he was spotted carrying a doll with the PSG forward's face stuck on.

But Messi does not believe any of the controversy has impacted his relationship with his club-mate.

He told Ole: "We talked about the game, the festivities, how people experienced it in Argentina when I was on vacation, and the festivities we had. Nothing, nothing more.

"I was on the other side too, I lost a World Cup final too, and I didn't want to know anything about it, about what happened, and nothing related to the World Cup at that time.

"That's why I don't want to talk about it [to Mbappe] either, but the truth is that there is no problem with Kylian, on the contrary."

Some of Argentina's celebrations – most notably Martinez's behaviour – fed into a negative perception of the team in the eyes of some.

There was also the photo of their reaction to beating the Netherlands on penalties earlier in the tournament, with many of the Argentina players appearing to goad their opponents as they ran off to celebrate.

But Messi is adamant Argentina have been done a disservice, again explaining how their reaction to the Dutch was simply a response to apparent unsporting conduct from Louis van Gaal's team.

"It seems unfair to me that Argentina's lack of fair play was mentioned because it's not true," he continued.

"We always behaved in an exemplary manner, on and off the pitch. My team-mates were impressive.

"I think they talk because of what happened with the Netherlands, that it all started there. It was the Dutch who spoke and who wanted to destabilise our players when we were going to take the penalties.

"Everyone talks about what Argentina did after their victory but no one talks about that. It seems to me we should watch it back more carefully and see what happened, and then comment."

Raphael Varane has announced his retirement from international football, saying it is time for France's "new generation" to take over.

Varane, who made his France debut in March 2013, made 93 appearances for Les Bleus.

The former Real Madrid centre-back, who joined Manchester United in 2021, played and started in all seven games of France's successful 2018 World Cup campaign.

Despite heading into last year's World Cup with an injury, Varane featured in six of France's matches in Qatar, including in the final against Argentina.

On Wednesday, Varane shared an Instagram post confirming his retirement from the international stage.

"Representing our great country for a decade has been one of the greatest honours of my life," Varane wrote.

"Every time I wore this very special blue jersey I felt immense pride. The duty to give it [my] all, play my heart out and win every time we went on the field. I've been contemplating this for several months and decided it's the right time for me to retire.

"As a child, I remember following France 98, this team, these players who made us experience indescribable emotions. I dreamed of being our heroes and 20 years later I lived one of the best experiences of my life.

"We brought home the World Cup!! I will never forget it. I still feel every single one of the emotions felt on that day, July 15, 2018. That was one of the most amazing and memorable moments of my life.


"This victory that we won all together would never have been possible without the support of [coach] Didier Deschamps, every member of the management and staff over the years, and my team-mates who have defended our shirt in every game we played.

"But more importantly, this victory would not have been possible without every single one of you supporting us along the way. Even after the defeat in the final last year, you welcomed us as heroes when we returned. To each and every one of you, THANK YOU a thousand times!

"I will miss these moments with you for sure, but the time has come for the new generation to take over. We have a bunch of talented young players who are ready to take over, who deserve a chance and who need you."

Varane, who captained his country 20 times, is the fourth member of France's 2018 World Cup squad to retire from international football, after Blaise Matuidi, Steve Mandanda and former captain Hugo Lloris.

Karim Benzema did not make that squad but was set to feature in Qatar until injury derailed his chances. The Ballon d'Or winner announced his retirement following the tournament.

Deschamps said: "Raphael called me a few days ago to explain to me that he wanted to put an end to his international career. He is an intelligent boy, who knows how to take the time to reflect, weigh the pros and cons before deciding. 

"Without going into the details of our exchange, Raphael believes that he has reached the end of his adventure with the France team. I experienced a situation somewhat similar to his, I understand his arguments and respect his decision even if it may seem regrettable.

"Of course, I cannot turn this page without a certain emotion, given the ties we have forged since August 2012. Like Hugo Lloris, he will have been, barring injury, in all of my squads."

Football can feel like a Formula One race at times, with things moving so rapidly that if you blink for a second, you could miss something.

For example, few would have been able to predict six months ago that in January 2023, a player called Enzo Fernandez would be joining Chelsea for a British-record transfer fee of £106.8million (€121m).

Not even many Benfica fans knew much about the midfielder when he arrived from River Plate for a reported fee of €12m in July.

Fernandez had been making a name for himself in his home country, with a loan spell at Defensa y Justicia under former Chelsea and Argentina striker Hernan Crespo convincing River Plate to give him a chance, which he took.

After 52 appearances for Los Millonarios, interest from Europe saw Fernandez linked with some big names, and it was Benfica who took the plunge.

The Lisbon club will be pleased they did after making a profit of well over €100m after just half a season, with the midfielder not only impressing in the Primeira Liga and Champions League, but also starring for Argentina as they lifted the World Cup in Qatar last month, with Fernandez claiming the FIFA Best Young Player of the Tournament award.

Is he really worth all that money, though?

Chelsea clearly think so, and in Fernandez they have bought a player who will feel like a dream come true for head coach Graham Potter.

In his time at Brighton and Hove Albion, Potter delighted in building midfields that could dominate the ball, that could keep hold of possession while also making incisive passes to turn the opposition around.

Despite being one of the smaller clubs in the Premier League, Potter's Brighton averaged 54.3 per cent possession in league games in 2021-22 (only Manchester City, Liverpool and Chelsea had more), while averaging 496 passes per game, and 59 passes into the final third per game (sixth in the league for both metrics).

Only Man City, Arsenal and, funnily enough, Brighton have a higher possession average than Chelsea since Potter took charge at Stamford Bridge in September, while only City have attempted more passes than the Blues, which will be where Fernandez comes in.

The man who only turned 22 earlier on January 17 is a passing machine, having completed 1,431 in total in just 17 Primeira Liga games, over 200 more than the player with the next most in the Portuguese top-flight.

It is not simply quantity over quality either, as Fernandez has also made 248 passes into the final third, at least 51 more than any other player.

Not only do they lead the league in terms of the table, but Benfica are also league leaders in averages for possession (66.0 per cent), passes per game (623) and passes ending in the final third per game (70.6). Their style enables Fernandez, but in turn, his ability allows them to execute it, which must have Potter salivating. 

Fernandez showed similar form in the Champions League as Benfica surprisingly won a group that included Paris Saint-Germain and Juventus, before going on to star in the World Cup as well.

Several big clubs had already taken a shine to him, but the astonishing figure shelled out for him by Chelsea was no doubt rubber-stamped after his performances in Qatar, with Fernandez leading all players in the epic final between Argentina and France for touches (118), successful passes (77) and tackles (10). His 10 tackles were the most of any player in a World Cup final since Gennaro Gattuso in 2006 (15).

But is he better than what Chelsea already have?

In the Blues' midfield this season, Mateo Kovacic leads the way in terms of number of passes per 90 in Premier League games (69.0), ahead of Jorginho (61.7), with no other player to have played more than five games averaging even 50.

Fernandez has been averaging 84.18 successful passes per game in Portugal, though consideration must be given to the difference in strength between the Premier League and Primeira Liga. In fact, it is the second-most of any midfielder in any of Europe's top 10 leagues this season, behind only Manchester City's Rodri (84.58), and ahead of Paris Saint-Germain's Marco Verratti (78.06) and Real Madrid's Toni Kroos (74.53).

There is also the Argentine's creativity to take into account, with Chelsea struggling to score goals this season having only managed 22 in 20 league games so far.

In league games, of those to have played more than twice, Conor Gallagher is averaging the most chances created from open play of Potter's midfield options at 1.59 per game, followed by Carney Chukwuemeka (1.38) and Mason Mount (1.24). Fernandez has averaged 1.62 per game.

When you consider that Potter already had Kovacic, Mount, Gallagher, N'Golo Kante, Ruben Loftus-Cheek, Denis Zakaria, Lewis Hall and Chukwuemeka to choose from, with Jorginho having departed for Arsenal on deadline day, you might think spending nine figures on another midfielder to be somewhat indulgent.

With the early promise and potential trajectory of Fernandez though, Chelsea have quite probably taken the next step in a long-term rebuild. Jorginho and Kante are both 31 years old and out of contract at the end of the season, and investing in the future rather than the past makes sense for a team that always wants to be challenging for the biggest trophies.

With great spending comes great expectations though, and the pressure will be immense on Fernandez to not just shine on the big stage, but to do so immediately.

Chelsea's newest addition could justifiably insist he has done just that with every challenge thrown at him in a short space of time, including the biggest challenge of winning the World Cup.

Enzo will no doubt back himself to prove he can live up to the price tag and be the Ferrari that Graham Potter needs.

Enzo Fernandez has finally signed for Chelsea, becoming the Premier League's record signing after the Blues met his £106.8million (€121m) release clause at Benfica.

Fernandez, who was named Young Player of the Tournament after helping Argentina win the 2022 World Cup, was strongly linked with Chelsea earlier in the transfer window before talks broke down.

However, the big-spending Blues went back in for him with the end of the window drawing closer, signing Fernandez to a long-term contract – rumoured to run until 2032 – with confirmation arriving an hour and a half after the transfer window closed.

Chelsea submitted the relevant paperwork in time and Benfica were first to announce details of the deal on their official website on Wednesday.

His arrival takes Chelsea's spending to a reported £288.5m (€328.5m) in January alone, with the midfielder becoming their eighth signing of the window.

Fernandez only joined Benfica from River Plate last year but has played a starring role for them since making that move, helping the Portuguese giants top their Champions League group.

He had looked likely to remain in Lisbon at least until the end of the season, but Chelsea revisited the deal with head coach Graham Potter reportedly keen for midfield reinforcements.

The fee surpasses the previous Premier League transfer record, set by Jack Grealish's £100m switch from Aston Villa to Manchester City in 2021.

Fernandez could make his Chelsea debut against Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Friday, as the Blues look to climb the table after a poor run of form saw them drop to 10th position. 

A dogged competitor with an eye for the magnificent, Fernandez featured in all seven of Argentina's games in Qatar, starting five of them after he came off the bench to net a superb goal against Mexico in the group stage.

 

Fernandez's ability on the ball, as well as his tenacity, will add a new facet to Potter's midfield options.

Only 11 players carried the ball further than Fernandez (1,239.7 metres) at the World Cup, while just 10 were involved in more shot-ending sequences than his 27.

Fernandez boasted a duel success rate of 58.8 per cent, winning 40 of his 68 engagements at the tournament.

He made just 17 league appearances during his short stint with Benfica, though he also featured in five group games in the Champions League.

Enzo Fernandez has finally signed for Chelsea, becoming the Premier League's record signing after the Blues met his £106.8million (€121m) release clause at Benfica.

Fernandez, who was named Young Player of the Tournament after helping Argentina win the 2022 World Cup, was strongly linked with Chelsea earlier in the transfer window before talks broke down.

However, the big-spending Blues went back in for him with the end of the window drawing closer, signing Fernandez to a long-term contract – rumoured to run until 2032 – with confirmation arriving an hour and a half after the transfer window closed.

Chelsea submitted the relevant paperwork in time and Benfica were first to announce details of the deal on their official website on Wednesday.

His arrival takes Chelsea's spending to a reported £288.5m (€328.5m) this month alone, with the midfielder becoming their eighth signing of the January transfer window.

Fernandez only joined Benfica from River Plate last year but has played a starring role for them since making that move, helping the Portuguese giants top their Champions League group.

He had looked likely to remain in Lisbon at least until the end of the season, but Chelsea revisited the deal with head coach Graham Potter reportedly keen for midfield reinforcements.

The fee surpasses the previous Premier League transfer record, set by Jack Grealish's £100m switch from Aston Villa to Manchester City in 2021.

Fernandez could make his Chelsea debut against Fulham at Stamford Bridge on Friday, as the Blues look to climb the table after a poor run of form saw them drop to 10th position. 

A dogged competitor with an eye for the magnificent, Fernandez featured in all seven of Argentina's games in Qatar, starting five of them after he came off the bench to net a superb goal against Mexico in the group stage.

 

Fernandez's ability on the ball, as well as his tenacity, will add a new facet to Potter's midfield options.

Only 11 players carried the ball further than Fernandez (1,239.7 metres) at the World Cup, while just 10 were involved in more shot-ending sequences than his 27.

Fernandez boasted a duel success rate of 58.8 per cent, winning 40 of his 68 engagements at the tournament.

He made just 17 league appearances during his short stint with Benfica, though he also featured in five group games in the Champions League.

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