Enzo Fernandez has made a positive start to his Chelsea career. In an otherwise difficult period, his form has been a bright spot for the Stamford Bridge side.

After signing during the January transfer window, Fernandez has hit the ground running and made himself an integral part of the Blue’s line-up as they seek to turn their season around.

Enzo Fernandez Shines

There have been plenty of positive moments early on in his time at Chelsea to encourage fans.

There was his smooth, floating assist to Joao Felix to give the striker his first Chelsea goal against rivals West Ham, plus, his six tackles against Fulham in a losing cause.

Combined with an impressive performance in the Champions League against Dortmund, despite being on the wrong end of a Karim Adeyemi counter-attack.

Fernandez has shown all the signs of being a franchise player for Chelsea and being – dare I say it – worth his $129m price tag.

At the tender of age 22, he’s the most expensive Premier League player in history, a World Cup winner, and one of the hottest phenoms currently playing. Here’s why.

Enzo Fernandez Origins

Enzo Fernandez was born in the tiny town of San Martin, just outside Buenos Aires and right in the backyard of his boyhood club, River Plate.

Fittingly, he made his first-team appearance in 2019 at 18. After occasionally playing in the first team and dominating U20 competitions, he left on loan for Defensa y Justicia for more playing time.

There, he fully blossomed into one of the best midfielders in South America.

His tenacity off the ball and technique on it helped him to a starting spot and a role in their Copa Sudamericana-winning season.

After returning to River Plate, his performances wowed scouts and journalists alike. His ten goals and seven assists to kick off the 2022 season motivated commentators to call him the best in Argentina.

It was fitting that he attracted plenty of attention. Clubs like Wolves, City, Juve, and United were all interested in him, but in the end, he chose Benfica to make an immediate impact and get more playing time.

The gamble worked out. Under manager Roger Schmidt, Fernandez thrived in his new conservative number six position.

In 40 games this season, Fernandez has four goals and an assist as Benfica beat their way to the top of the league.

But his time in Qatar convinced Chelsea to secure his signature.

Along with Lionel Messi, Lautaro Martinez, and Emiliano Martinez, Fernandez was critical in their push to claim their third World Cup title.

Despite not starting in Saudi Arabia’s shock win over Argentina, he came off the bench to score a fantastic curling goal against Mexico. He assisted Julian Alvarez’s strike against Poland to secure qualification.

From there, he played every possible minute of the knockout rounds. His playmaking and strong tackling earned him the World Cup’s Best Young Player Award and ignited strong interest from Todd Boehly and the Chelsea front office.

It leads us to now, with Fernandez a mainstay in the first team and a fresh breath of air for an otherwise-dreadful Blues squad. But what makes Fernandez so good?

His skill, explained

One of the main reasons Chelsea signed Fernandez was his ability to retain possession. His Benfica side keeps an average of 66.5% possession in the league, which has led to Fernandez getting 75-150 touches a game. It helps that Fernandez is an above-average passer who can easily push the ball upfield.

He’s also a great shot-creator; he ranks tenth in Liga Portugal in shot-creating actions, per FBREF. His presence, Chelsea reasoned, would help heal a porous back line but also help create more chances for what can be a potent front line of Joao Felix, Mykhailo Mudryk, and Kai Havertx.

As soon as he arrived at Stamford Bridge donning the number 5 jersey, Enzo Fernandez made a big impact.

He got the start in his debut against London rivals Fulham, playing in a central midfield role. Despite the massive fitness and intelligence requirements of playing in such a vital position, he managed it superbly.

Fernandez frequently joined the back line when Chelsea had the ball with Thiago and Benoit Badiashile to play it around the back to retain possession but stepped up to the midfield when Chelsea lost it.

Although it was a woeful night for Chelsea as the match ended 0-0, Fernandez played impeccably, amassing 93 touches in 90 minutes of action.

“I thought he handled himself magnificently,” manager Graham Potter told the press after the draw. “Tough game, and you could see his quality; you could see what he’ll bring to the team.”

Fernandez’s masterclasses (and Chelsea’s poor form) continued as February wore on. A 1-1 draw with West Ham saw him send a soaring cross to a streaking Felix, who scored to open the scoring.

Although Karim Adeyemi burnt him to score the only goal of Chelsea’s 1-0 loss to Dortmund, Fernandez had yet another solid match. He accumulated two tackles and four blocks while providing indispensable cover in the midfield.

A catastrophic 1-0 loss to Chelsea brought in nothing new. Fernandez had five tackles, the most of any player in blue, while also getting 71 touches and completing 53 passes.

It’s been a solid month for the January signing, but this ceiling is high for the Argentine. Difficult fixtures against Spurs, Leeds, and Dortmund lie ahead, but the defensive ace and Chelsea’s champion creator will be up for the challenge.

Photo credit: IMAGO / PA Images