Chelsea asked to sanction problematic exit of crucial star in Fernandez deal as Benfica leverage succeeded

Chelsea were reportedly asked by Benfica to give up Mateo Kovacic as part of their deal for Enzo Fernandez, forcing them to pay the full sum instead.

Chelsea’s January deadline day was filled with potential deals for midfielders. Jorginho left the club and Fernandez joined, in what eventually ended up being one in, one out.

However, had things panned out differently, the outlook of Chelsea’s midfield could have been very different. All approaches for Conor Gallagher were rebuffed, amid ‘significant interest’ from a number of clubs.

That was due to the ‘high hopes’ the Blues have for the 22-year-old, and surely had something to do with them letting Jorginho go – not wanting to be in a worse position by losing another midfielder.

Benfica seemingly used Chelsea’s position as a bargaining chip in the Fernandez deal, too. Portuguese outlet Record reports they wanted to take Kovacic in order to let Fernandez go.

The Blues’ reluctance to pay the full sum for Fernandez was reported throughout the pursuit. It even led to ‘anger’ at Benfica due to that in the early stages of talks.

However, the Portuguese side created leverage with their request to take Kovacic, which eventually led to them receiving the full sum, reportedly £107million.

That they asked for Kovacic was a smart move to make Chelsea cough up. In terms of central midfielders, only Jorginho – who has now left the club – has played more minutes than Kovacic this season.

With N’Golo Kante currently sidelined and potentially leaving in the summer, Chelsea’s midfield would have experienced a sheer drop-off in experience had Kovacic been able to leave.

While Fernandez is sure to be one of the first names on the team sheet, he’s only 22 years old. Asking him to be the leader in the midfield with his limited experience could have been problematic.

Instead, with Kovacic still at the club to play alongside him, he’ll be able to play his game with no worries, as well as learning from his more experienced partner.

While Chelsea’s pocket is worse off for it, their immediate future could be in better shape, and Benfica certainly benefitted despite losing a big asset.

READ MORE: Sh*t or bust for Chelsea and Barca? Only time will tell if Boehly is a genius…

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