Lionel Messi, Lionel Scaloni and Emiliano Martinez made it a clean sweep for Argentina in Monday's glitzy ceremony for the Best FIFA Awards in Paris.

Paris Saint-Germain forward Messi was crowned the Best FIFA Men's Player, Scaloni took the the Best FIFA Men's Coach and Martinez the Best FIFA Men's Goalkeeper.

The award period spans between the start of the 2021-22 season through to the end of the 2022 World Cup, which saw Argentina end their 36-year wait to win the competition.

Martinez, who plies his club trade for Aston Villa, finished ahead of Thibaut Courtois and Yassine Bounou of Real Madrid and Sevilla respectively in the voting – although Courtois made the cut for the FIFPro Men's World 11.

Scaloni was next to pick up an award after seeing off competition from Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola and Real Madrid head coach Carlo Ancelotti, who won a LaLiga and Champions League double last season.

La Albiceleste have lost just one of their 23 games since the start of last season, with their solitary loss coming in their opening Qatar 2022 group game against Saudi Arabia.

Messi made it three from three for Argentina by claiming the top prize at the ceremony in the French capital, which started with a poignant tribute to Brazil great Pele.

Madrid striker Karim Benzema and Messi's PSG team-mate Kylian Mbappe had also been in the running for the award.

Argentina's fans also claimed the FIFA Fan Award.

Their domination on the men's side was not quite matched by European champions England in the women's prizes.

While Argentina dominated the men's side of the voting, it was a clean sweep for England in the women's side of things.

Mary Earps was named the Best FIFA Women's Goalkeeper and Sarina Wiegman took the Best FIFA Women's Coach award for a third time.

But Beth Mead was pipped to the Best FIFA Women's Player accolade by Alexia Putellas, last year's winner.

Other winners included Luka Lochoshvili, then of Austrian side Wolfsberger, in the FIFA Fair Play Award category for potentially saving the life of opponent Georg Teigl during a game after the Austria Vienna player fell unconscious mid-match.

Polish amputee footballer Marcin Oleksy won the FIFA Puskas Award for the best goal for his perfectly executed bicycle kick for Warta Poznan against Stal Rzeszow.

Paris Saint-Germain and Argentina forward Lionel Messi has won the Best FIFA Men's Player award for a second time.

Messi saw off competition from club-mate Kylian Mbappe and Real Madrid's Karim Benzema to collect the award at Monday's ceremony in Paris.

The award spans the period between the start of the 2021-22 season through to the end of the World Cup, which saw Messi end Argentina's 36-year wait to win the competition.

Former Barcelona superstar Messi claimed the Golden Ball award in Qatar – given to the best player of the tournament – after scoring seven goals and assisting three more.

Those 10 direct goal involvements were matched by Mbappe, who finished as top scorer, but that was not enough to see the France forward win his first Best FIFA award.

 

Messi made a slow start to life at PSG by his own personal high standards, scoring 11 goals and assisting 14 in 34 games in his maiden campaign at the Parc des Princes.

However, the 35-year-old – who has also won a record seven Ballons d'Or – matched those figures in his first 18 games this season ahead of the World Cup.

Messi, who previously won the Best FIFA award in 2019, joins Cristiano Ronaldo and Robert Lewandowski as two-time winners, having also finished as a runner-up three times.

Lionel Messi has been named the Best FIFA Men's Player.

The Paris Saint-Germain superstar and Barcelona great won the award for the second time, beating club-mate Kylian Mbappe and last year's Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema to the prize.

With the award spanning the time between August 8, 2021 and December 18 last year – from the start of last season to the end of the World Cup – Messi's success in Qatar ultimately gave him the edge.

Using Opta data, Stats Perform looks at Messi's crowning year.

 

Starting slow in Paris

It has not all been rosy for Messi over the course of the last 18 months. 

Barca's inability to renew his contract led to Messi swapping Camp Nou for the Parc des Princes and forming a mouth-watering front trio with Mbappe and Neymar.

Yet it took some time for him to click into gear in France.

Messi finished the 2021-22 Ligue 1 season with six goals, his lowest tally in a league campaign since his breakthrough at Barcelona in the 2005-06 season.

He underperformed his expected goals total of 10.1 by just over four, suggesting he was not finishing chances he would have been expected to, while he only netted once in his first 12 Ligue 1 matches. He was also slightly unfortunate, hitting the woodwork on 11 occasions.

Yet Messi did create – he tallied 14 assists in Ligue 1 alone, creating 63 chances. Having Mbappe and Neymar alongside him no doubt helped (his xA was 9.0), but he ultimately finished with 20 goal contributions in France's top tier.

 

Messi had more luck in the Champions League, scoring five goals in seven appearances, slightly outperforming his non-penalty xG (three goals from 2.4 npxG).

Back at his best

Any teething issues Messi experienced last season have been swiftly forgotten this term.

Indeed, in the run-up to the World Cup, Messi had already contributed to 25 goals (11 goals, 14 assists) in 18 appearances for PSG across all competitions.

None of Messi's goals came from the penalty spot, topping his npxG of 9.5.

Heading to Qatar, Messi had contributed to more PSG goals than either Mbappe or Neymar (24 each) in fewer matches.

Messi's shot conversion rate (14.9 per cent) was lower than Mbappe's 23.5 and Neymar's 27.1, but he had completed more dribbles (55) and created chances with a greater combined xA (8.6) than either.

It took time, but the signs were scary for Argentina's opponents heading into the World Cup, and it's that tournament that has inevitably given him the edge for these awards.

On top of the world... at last

The one criticism that could have been levelled at Messi previously was that the seven-time Ballon d'Or winner had not managed to transfer his form to the international stage.

After winning the Copa America in 2021, Messi ended that argument in emphatic fashion in Qatar, channelling his inner Diego Maradona as, like the great man in 1986, he dragged Argentina to glory at a World Cup.

The 35-year-old scored seven goals, including two in the final, and provided three assists to claim the Golden Ball award, although of course it is the main prize that will matter the most to him.

 

Messi became the first player to net in the group stage, the last 16, the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and the final – albeit Jairzinho scored in every game Brazil played in 1970 before the introduction of the round of 16.

Messi and Jairzinho are two of five players in World Cup history to have found the net in six separate games at one finals, with the other three (Just Fontaine, Salvatore Schillaci and Davor Suker) boosting their numbers in the third-place play-off.

He also matched Schillaci in scoring the first goal in five different matches.

Messi topped the charts for shots attempted (32), chances created from open play (17) and fouls won (22).

Lionel Scaloni is set to lead Argentina into the 2026 World Cup after signing a new deal with La Albiceleste.

Scaloni, with more than a helping hand from Lionel Messi, guided Argentina to World Cup glory in Qatar last year.

It was Argentina's third world title but their first since 1986, when Diego Maradona starred in Mexico.

Messi, with seven goals and three assists, was the driving force in 2022, as Scaloni scooped his second prize as Argentina coach, after winning the Copa America in 2021.

Scaloni's contract had expired, but he always outlined his intention to stay on and news of his new deal was confirmed on Monday.

It means Scaloni is set to take charge of Argentina at next year's Copa America and at the next World Cup.

The United States will stage both the Copa America and the 2026 World Cup, though Mexico and Canada are also co-hosts for the latter tournament.

Scaloni, who counted Newell's Old Boys, West Ham, Lazio and Atalanta among his clubs across a 20-year playing career, took charge of Argentina in 2018 following a stint as the nation's under-20 coach.

He has been nominated for the FIFA Best Men's Coach for 2022, alongside Real Madrid boss Carlo Ancelotti and Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola.

Enzo Fernandez has urged Chelsea fans to trust the players, staff and head coach Graham Potter amid a poor run of form.

Chelsea have won just four of their last 19 games and are without a win in their last five after losing 1-0 at home to Southampton last weekend.

That is despite a significant outlay on new players in the last two transfer windows, including a record £106.8million (€121m) on bringing World Cup winner Fernandez in from Benfica in January.

The Blues sit 10th in the Premier League ahead of Sunday's trip to Tottenham, and Fernandez has called on the fans to back them.

"My message to the fans would be never forget that we are representing you," the 22-year-old told The Times. "Trust us. Trust the players, trust the backroom staff, trust the manager. Because we are all moving in the same direction.

"It is a restructuring of the club. We are going to be trying to win games, starting on Sunday. Then we can start to turn things around."

Fernandez became the most expensive signing in British football history when he arrived at Stamford Bridge, but he insists that does not factor into his thinking on the pitch.

"These figures are nothing to do with me," he said. "It's part of football. My job is to go out and give my best."

Fernandez was one of several new faces brought in by Chelsea, along with Mykhaylo Mudryk, Benoit Badiashile, Noni Madueke, David Datro Fofana and Joao Felix, who signed on loan from Atletico Madrid, and Fernandez would like the Portuguese attacker to sign permanently at the end of the season. 

"He called me when I got here to ask if he could be any help," Fernandez said of Joao Felix. "When you get on with someone it helps on the field. He's a great player, isn't he? Let's hope that Chelsea can do all they can to keep hold of him."

The former River Plate midfielder also enjoyed a breakout World Cup last year, helping captain Lionel Messi and Argentina to success in Qatar in December, and Fernandez described what it was like to play alongside his idol.

"He's one of those leaders who are really positive all the time, both in the example he sets in his play but also on a human level in the dressing room," he said. "He's down to earth and kind to everyone. He offers support to everyone within the squad, from the biggest stars through to the youngsters.

"I felt very conscious that he was with me all the way, giving me a lot of moral support. It was my biggest dream ever – to play with Messi. To then go on in that team to win the World Cup, it's almost like God has given me a huge gift... What can I take from that time with him? Energy. It was a special dressing room, a lively dressing room.

"Energy, positivity and a real will to win, but also keeping humble. I know I'm still young and I need to keep learning but maybe tomorrow, maybe at some point in the future, I want to really demonstrate that I'm a leader."

Atletico Madrid midfielder Rodrigo De Paul has been sidelined for an unspecified period with a thigh injury ahead of this weekend's derby with Real Madrid.

The Argentina international, who started his side's LaLiga victory over Athletic Bilbao on Sunday, was forced from the field just before the hour mark.

De Paul, a member of La Albiceleste's World Cup-winning squad at Qatar 2022, has now been confirmed to have suffered a thigh issue.

"Rodrigo De Paul is suffering from a thigh injury, according to the medical tests he has undergone after ended up with muscular problems the match against Athletic Bilbao," read an official statement.

"The midfielder will begin to receive physiotherapy sessions, rehabilitation training and is pending evolution."

Though no timeframe has been given for De Paul's potential return, Atletico will hope he is not sidelined for a prolonged period as Diego Simeone's side fight for a top-four finish in LaLiga.

However, it would seem unlikely De Paul will be fit for Saturday's trip to the Santiago Bernabeu.

World Cup winner Paulo Dybala says he has no clue about his future at Roma ahead of their European League tie with RB Salzburg.

The 29-year-old Argentinian forward left Juventus on a free transfer for Roma on a three-year deal last year, but has been linked with Manchester United recently.

Dybala has impressed at the Giallorossi this term, netting 11 goals and providing seven assists in 21 appearances.

However, he reportedly has a €12m (£10.7m) release clause in his contract which could be triggered by clubs outside of Serie A, with Dybala not hosing down the United speculation.

"When it comes to my release clause, as I said before it's something between my agent and the club," Dybala told reporters. "I can't know what's going to happen at the end of the year."

Roma boss Jose Mourinho has also been the topic of speculation lately despite being under contract until 2024.

Dybala hopes Mourinho will remain with the club and is keen to win a trophy under a coach who he calls 'one of the best managers in the world'.

"I don't know what's in my future so you think I have any clue on the manager's future? You need to ask him," Dybala said.

"I can say that I would like to be coached by him because for me he is one of the best managers in the world. I want to win something with him.

"Right now I only think about tomorrow's game. We have to do well because there are still plenty of games to play. As I always said I want to lift a trophy with Roma.

"We have two competitions mathematically to play but realistically maybe just this one to win something. We want to win it and let Roma playing in Champions League next season."

Mourinho downplayed Roma's chances of lifting the trophy, saying it will be tough with Arsenal, Barcelona, Manchester United and Juventus all involved.

"When I talked about sharks coming from the Champions League I referred to teams built to win Champions League but have ended up playing in Europa League," the Portuguese said.

"It's clear that for a team with ambitions to win the Champions League when they find themselves in this competition, they have a lot of pressure on their shoulders.

"Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus... these teams were not built to win the Europa League but to win the Champions League.

"Obviously, all the pressure is on them. Just like it was last season in the Conference League where we felt the pressure to be one of the most successful teams in the competition. Now they are in this position. Arsenal, Barcelona, Manchester United, Juventus, they are the favourites."

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."

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.

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."

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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